Holiday wills – it is possible you’ve never heard the term.
You are planning the holiday of a lifetime, and chances are that you will return relaxed and happy. But have you given thought to what would happen if you died overseas?
Christopher Columbus said “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” For much of the 20th century that didn’t seem such a hindrance to people, especially with the development of aircraft and airlines and the (very) slow improvement in the quality of airline food.
In the last few years, though, the world has been shaken by a series of terror attacks and a suite of missing plane incidents. The most recent one that we know about is EgyptAir MS804 which went missing over the Mediterranean Sea. And although this hasn’t seriously hindered that we may go on holiday overseas, it has made us think twice about where to go and who we’re leaving behind.
There has been a huge surge in people taking out a will before their holiday in case they die overseas. A will and probate specialist from a UK firm, Tasoula Addison, says “We’ve seen a marked increase in people taking out their first will to protect themselves and their assets before a holiday. After a series of terror attacks and missing planes, fear is at an all time high. This latest missing plane incident is only going to fuel that fear.”
This has given rise to the term holiday wills – as people think about their own mortality for the first time.
It used to be that people would assume that they’d die of old age and natural causes, she said. The firm are seeing more people with plans that might cater for every eventuality. Addison said, “A recent client requested her ashes scattered in her holiday location should she die there. I understand why people are trying to plan for every eventuality. So many horrifying things are happening in the world right now, it’s making people fearful. Having a will in place just gives people comfort their loved ones will be protected if the worst should happen.”
Holiday wills are often organised quite quickly by clients who are booking an appointment with a legal professional only a few weeks before their holiday. It might be the first time they’ve ever had a will drawn up or it might be an update or it may be a will that only applies if they die on holiday. “There also seems to be a sense of urgency about it – as if there is a genuine fear they won`t be coming home,” says Addison.
The reality is, whether we’re about to take a journey or not, we all need a will to look after our loved ones when we die. Our holiday may be an amazing experience which we return from, only to be hit by a bus in our own country as we exit the airport. Addison says,”It really is vital for everyone should make will, especially if going away as a couple and leaving your children at home with friends or family. What happens to your children if you and your partner are in an accident? You need to have made provision for them, both financially and in terms of naming guardians to look after them in your absence. Even if you are taking your children with you, what happens if there is a family wipe-out? Who would you want to inherit if you, your partner, and your children were no longer around? Not having a will in those circumstances can lead to unintended consequences, such as your entire estate going to your spouse/civil partner’s parents.”
The Australian Government encourages all Australians over 18 to seek professional advice in making a will before they travel overseas. Did you know that each year almost 1000 Aussies die overseas through illness or accident? Thailand seems to have the most Australian deaths, but that’s because of the high numbers of Australians passing through there. Some of the more obscure deaths are extreme sport related or people encountering violence, but the biggest reason for Australians dying overseas is illness. So it’s not just your will that you need to keep up to date – it’s your immunisations as well.
Having a holiday is supposed to be, well, a holiday. By having a will you are planning ahead, planning to be relaxed on you holiday (for what is most likely to be the short-term) and planning for a much easier path for your family for when you die (which we’re hoping is in the long-term).
Because families (and people) are complex, it is best to make an appointment with a professional to draw up your will. Planning ahead to do this is best since it can take time to draw up properly – don’t leave it until just before your holiday. Your solicitor can help you to think about and include what you need in your will for your particular circumstances. You’ll also need to appoint trustworthy executors – people whom you really trust. When you’ve organised your will it’s a fantastic idea to communicate the contents to your loved ones so that there are no surprises. And – if you’re keen for your body to come back to Australia if you do die of natural causes (in the middle of a French meadow with wine in one hand and cheese in the other) then it’s a very good idea to also have travel insurance. The cost of repatriation may mean that your family will only be able to dream about having a holiday for a while after footing the bill.
As you can see, the considerations that need to go into estate planning go beyond what to do with your assets, and beyond the quick fix of ‘holiday wills’. You will also need to consider:
- Who will look after your children if you die overseas
- What will happen to your body
- What to do in case other family members are stranded overseas
- How to make decisions about your medical care if you are severely injured
We think going on a holiday sounds wonderful, but we also know from experience that not having a will is not so wonderful for your family. Please contact us today for a free, 10-minute phone consultation with one of our estate planning specialists.