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With 45 per cent of Australians currently living without a will, a campaign has been initiated aimed at encouraging citizens to write their own. Held on August 10, Will Awareness Day looks to raise awareness about how relatives may be affected when a person dies inter-state. In NSW, a common avenue in writing out a will is through the NSW Public Trustee, which acts as an independent and impartial administrator.

Writing a will is more complicated than it looks. Justin Dowd, President of the Law Society of New South Wales (NSW) explained that filling a Will form from the Newsagents “doesn’t mean that the person has an understanding of what they are doing, nor does it mean that they have an understanding of the law that would apply to that Will.” Mr Dowd said: “One of the focuses this year is how you properly deal with children who are adults and have their own children as this is becoming increasingly complex.”

If a will has not been made out correctly, it can be ruled invalid if contested, particularly if there were legal specifications that were not followed. With inter-state deaths, the absence of a will can result in a variety of unpleasant circumstances for the respective families. The assets of the deceased could be wrongfully distributed and his/her children could be brought into the custody of an unspecified carer.

Mr Dowd said that some religions, like Islam, establish the way in which property should be divided in the event of a death. He maintained that because these norms are not universally applied, those of a Muslim faith living in Australia should have a will to be sure their assets will be divided the way they want.

In NSW, if an individual dies interstate, an administrator of the Supreme Court of New South Wales is appointed to arrange the funeral, collect the assets and pay debts and taxes. During this process, financially dependent relatives of the deceased can claim a “30 day survivorship” as a means of temporary support.

To help raise awareness about the issue, the NSW Law Society has organised a panel discussions on August 10, to be facilitated by SBS Insight presenter, Jenny Brockie. To create or update your Will, call NSW Trustee & Guardian on 1300 364 103 and receive free advice.