As an ageing population puts increased pressure on traditional aged care accommodation, there are increasing numbers of older Australians living with offspring in their larger homes or in backyard granny flats.
An often-forgotten component of this trend is the added pressure this brings on wills and estates planning, particularly for women, according to the leading Australian law firm wills and estates team of Armstrong Lawyers and Parke Lawyers.
Enquiries are growing from concerned female seniors who are uncertain of their future after the death of their husband.
While the population as a whole is living longer, women are still generally outliving men, which means it is vital that a sound estate plan is in place.
Life expectancy is on the way up. Australia’s senior population is on track to grow by five million within 40 years.
Leading Australian lawyer and business law specialist, Jim Parke, said most couples made their estate plans together without necessarily taking into account what would happen if one partner passed on prematurely, or how they should deal with the circumstance of the surviving partner living their advancing years with their children.
“With women living longer, they are often placed in a vulnerable position with existing estate planning, particularly if they’re reliant on family as far as housing and as far as care is concerned.
“Widows can feel the added pressure of not wanting to upset the child or other family members, including being forced out of their accommodation, if their will is not to the liking of their host.”
Mr Parke said there was a need to have rigorous agreements in place in these circumstances because when something goes wrong it has the potential to go very wrong, upsetting all parties.
“As people live longer, the likelihood of inter-generational conflict increases.”
For this reason, he said, it was important to deal with an experienced wills and estates expert.
Many widows have relied heavily on their partners for support and find it difficult to adjust to new living arrangements with their children.
Mr Parke said there appeared to be an issue with lack of support for many older women and this was putting pressure on family relationships. He said this meant it was important to plan for these eventualities.
“No one wants to believe that family relationships will break down, or that a partner will die prematurely, but it’s important to engage with, and plan for, such unpleasant possibilities.
“This must be done when you have capacity – and a well-prepared estate plan, developed with both partners when they are fit and healthy, is one of the best ways of accounting for this kind of scenario, and protecting women as they age.”