The discussion around end-of-life planning comes to the fore on Monday, August 8 as Australians are urged to prioritise conversations around death and dying as part of Dying to Know Day.
Although it may not be an entirely fun topic to discuss, it’s something that everyone will face in their lifetime one way or another, and having a voice in the decision process is important.
Dying to Know Campaign Manager at The Groundswell Project Australia, Cherelle Martin said that poor end-of-life planning “can mean that end-of-life experiences are not aligned with an individual’s values or wishes.”
“Death is often over-medicalised and institutionalised. Our superstitions, fears, discomfort, and lack of knowledge about dying affect our approach to end-of-life. However, we know that Australians think conversations about death are important,” Martin said.
“People often feel ill equipped to act or start a conversation. The risk here for us all is that we do not have the knowledge or understanding around how to best support a loved one who is dying, caring or grieving.
“By normalising conversations around death and dying, Australians can ‘get dead set’. The pandemic has brought death and dying. Our mortality is a part of our collective consciousness like never before. This is an opportunity to continue to strengthen our collective approach to these important matters.”
Through their research, The Groundswell Project found that over 70 per cent of Australians wish to die at home, however, a mere 14 per cent are actually able to given the amount of planning that is required. Alarmingly more than half of Australians don’t have a valid will in place.
Estate Planning Solicitor at Equity Trustee, Susan Bonnici commented on the pitfalls that can arise when a valid Will is not in place, claiming that “there’s a lot of confusion about what happens to what you leave behind if you die without a Will.”
“This can create a huge challenge for family or friends who have to sort out assets that belong to someone who has died if they didn’t leave a Will to provide directions,” Bonnici said.
“To be legally enforceable, an Australian Will must be made by someone over 18 and written without undue influence from someone else.
“The person making the Will must also be of sound mind and awareness. Lastly, the Will must be signed and witnessed properly.
“While a Will isn’t always as straightforward as you might imagine from what you’ve seen in the movies, it is better to have one in place than not.
“Engaging professional estate planning services can help ensure your estate is passed on according to your wishes and will help minimise future conflict and legal and administrative costs in the future – and that’s not a bad legacy to leave behind.”
When it comes to end-of-life care and medical treatment the numbers are even more alarming with a national study led by Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA) finding that only 15 per cent of Australians have taken the opportunity to control their end-of-life care and write an advance care directive. Men are less likely to plan than women.
Starting the conversation about advance care planning is a crucial first step in ensuring preferences for future care are known and respected.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.