pen on paper

Making a will is a common way of transferring assets across generations. Yet some people die without a valid will, and many wills that are written are later contested. This project in partnership with Public Trustees across Australia addresses the lack of data on the prevalence of will making in Australia. The topic is timely given the current government emphasis on planning for later life as well as changes in longevity, family types, cultural diversity and the extent and nature of asset ownership.

The project will develop the first national data set on who does and does not make a will and why, as well as the grounds on which decisions about challenges to wills are made within the legal system. Research findings will provide a basis for public education campaigns and advise legal will drafters of the key issues of concern for people with complex assets and family circumstances.
 

Project Status

In progress (2011-2015)

Research Team

Research Team Contacts

Chief Investigator
Tel: 07 3365 3341
 
Research Manager
Tel: 07 3346 9090
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partnerships

This is a joint project between the University of Queensland (UQ), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Victoria University supported by the Australian Research Council in partnership with seven public trustee organisations across Australia:

Research Activities

The research has five major components: 

Completed

1. A national survey explored the prevalence of will making in Australia, the reasons for making, changing or not making a will, advice sought and asset distribution in wills.

2. A review of all judicially resolved succession law cases in Australia in 2011 identified the legal grounds relied on in contesting wills and disputants’ underlying motives.

3. Files involving disputed cases dealt with, in the first instance, by the Public Trustee were analysed. Many of these will disputes were settled outside court.

4. On line surveys with document drafters (Public Trustee officers and private solicitors) were completed to identify social and family situations presenting difficulties to will drafters and approaches taken to resolve these difficulties.

5. Key informant interviews were undertaken to enhance understanding of the processes involved in making a will, the basis of inheritance, motivations behind asset distribution in wills and knowledge of intestacy (dying without a valid will). Sixty eight interviews  being conducted with will makers and non-will makers with complex families, complex assets, and diverse cultural practices.

Publications and final reports

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L & Feeney, R (2015) Having the Last Word? Will making and contestation in Australia. The University of Queensland.

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Feeney, R., 2014 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Online survey of will drafters, Research Report to Industry Partners, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Feeney, R., 2014 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Review of Public Trustee files, Research Report to Industry Partners, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Strub, T., 2013 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Outcomes from a National Prevalence Survey of Will Making, Research Report to Industry Partners, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

White, B., Tilse, C., Wilson, J., Rosenman, L., Strub, T., Feeney, R. & Silvester, W. Prevalence and predictors of advance directives in Australia. Internal Medicine Journal. 44, no. 10 (2014): 975-980.

Interim reports to Partner Organisations

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Feeney, R., 2013 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Report to Industry Partners September 2013, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Feeney, R., 2014 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Report to Industry Partners March 2014, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Feeney, R., 2014 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Report to Industry Partners October 2014, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Strub, T., 2012 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Report to Industry Partners October 2012, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Tilse, C., Wilson, J., White, B., Rosenman, L., & Strub, T., 2013 Families and Generational Asset Transfers: Making and Challenging Wills in Contemporary Australia. Report to Industry Partners March 2013, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Further reading

Wilson, J & Tilse, C., 2012  Will Making in Queensland. Research Report to The Office of the Public Trustee Queensland, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia.

Media

Your last will and testament, 612 ABC Radio, February 2014.

Law study seeks volunteers to enhance understanding of making a will, QUT Law News, February 2014.

Researchers want to talk wills, UQ News, June 2014.

"Researchers want to talk will making". Queensland Country Life, August 2014.

Australians left vulnerable without advanced care planning, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 2014.

Making a will? Why not plan your end-of-life care too, The Conversation October, 2014.

Willing young Australians to understand, QUT Law News, March 2015.

Older Australians are willing but young ones delay, UQ News, April 2015. 

Young don’t have many will wishers, mX, April 2015.

Today, where there’s a will, there’s a way to fight over it, The Australian, April 2015

Young people not keen on wills, National Seniors Australia, April 2015.

Challenging a will: money or family, Adele Horin Coming of Age, June 2015.

Wills and Bequethments, 2SER Radio, June 2015.

Make your last wishes everlasting, The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age, June 2015.

Where there's a will there's a way out, The Sydney Morning Herald /The Age, June 2015.

Take steps to avoid beneficiary litigation after you die, Financial Review, July 2015.

Funding

The study is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Project Grant (LP110200891) in partnership with The Public Trustee of Queensland, NSW Trustee & Guardian, Public Trustee, Tasmania, Public Trustee for the Australian Capital Territory, State Trustees Limited, Voctoria Public Trustee, South Australia, Public Trustee, Western Australia.