Australian retirees are the world's most generous when estate planning

Date: Jan 21, 2014

The latest "Future of Retirement Report" from HSBC Australia provides those who are in the midst of estate planning with some interesting food for thought.

Apparently retirees in Australia "leave their families more inheritance than retirees in any other country" - a fact that could lead to more estate disputes in future.

A total of 16,000 people from 15 countries took part in HSBC's survey. Out of these, 1,000 came from Australia.

In our country, the "Future of Retirement Report" shows, the average inheritance retirees leave their families is just over half a million dollars ($501,919). That's a whopping four times higher than the global average of $148,205.

So why are retirees in Australia so generous when compared with their counterparts in other areas of the world? According to Graham Heunis, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management for HSBC Australia, it's the 22 or more years of "economic prosperity" our country has been lucky enough to enjoy.

He explained that during the last ten years, household wealth in Australia has grown by a staggering amount - around 7.6 per cent each year!

This makes our country "one of the richest nations per capita globally," said Mr Heunis, which means retirees in Australia are able to leave their families, dependents and friends "a significant financial legacy" if they so desire.

In addition to this, retirees in Australia are more likely to leave inheritance to their families than retirees in the other corners of the globe. Out of the Australians who took part in HSBC's survey, a total of 69 per cent said they were planning to leave inheritance.

Only 64 per cent of people from the United Kingdom, 57 per cent of people from Canada and 56 per cent of people from the United States could say the same.

Mr Heunis said the reason behind this could be that "inheritance and estate tax" in the United Kingdom and United States can often relieve heirs of a substantial portion of their inheritance - sometimes up to 40 per cent.

Because of this, many people in these countries prefer to give loved ones financial gifts during their lives rather than a lump sum once they've passed on.

"With no inheritance tax in Australia, it's no surprise the value and proportion of inheritance among Australian retirees is exponentially higher than the rest of the world," said Mr Heunis in a December 13 statement.

Interestingly, many Australians are expecting and ultimately relying on a large inheritance to fund their own years as retirees, rather than "undertaking adequate retirement planning," revealed the "Future of Retirement Report".

Around 50 per cent of working-age Australians said their "future inheritance" would be used to partly fund their retirement, and 12 per cent said they will "largely rely on this income" during their golden years.

Mr Heunis said this was a risky bet, as people often don't take into account the fact that inheritance may have to be shared between many family members, as well as dependents, de facto partners, ex-spouses and anyone else to whom the will-maker chooses to leave a part or parts of their estate.

As a result, you could end up with a much smaller amount than you were expecting or, indeed, believe you are entitled to. If this happens, there is a solution: You may be able to dispute a will.

Certain, eligible people in Australia are permitted to challenge a will when they feel they have not received their fair share of the will-maker's estate.

For more information, get in touch with the estate lawyers at Craddock Murray Neumann.