Tough questions for living and leaving well

Media Release 
28 May, 2018

Many people have insurance cover for events that will probably never happen, yet more than half of the New Zealand population have no plan in place for something that’s a certainty – namely, their death.

It’s something that has prompted Public Trust to once again run a Tough Questions campaign.

Now in its second year, the campaign shows couples discussing their thoughts and family experiences with death or illness.

“The campaign looks to confront New Zealanders with the very real consequences of not having a plan in place for their assets, finances and dependent family members in the case of death or illness,” says Public Trust’s Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Josh Byers.

“Public Trust’s insights suggest that New Zealand has a poor record in estate planning compared to similar countries, possibly due to a lack of understanding about what can happen if unprepared.

“More than 1.5 million adult New Zealanders do not have a will. Many of them will have children. So, right now there are thousands of parents who haven’t established a plan for supporting their children if they die, let alone naming a guardian to care for them.

“Not having a will almost certainly means no enduring power of attorney either. That means there is nobody known to them who is trusted to make decisions on their behalf if they’re unable to through illness or injury,” says Mr Byers.

Modern family life has only heightened the need for estate planning. Many families are now fragmented or blended due to separation and remarriage, meaning a greater need for clarity about one’s intentions.

“There’s a good chance that, if you die without a will, what you assume will happen to your estate probably won’t,” says Public Trust General Counsel, Henry Stokes.

“With no will, the court steps in to sort things out. Many people are shocked by who ends up getting what and how things play out with things like guardianship.

“People don’t understand the mess and stress that is left behind if even the basics aren’t in place. It can create a lot of resentment and bitterness within families. Children and partners can feel completely wronged,” says Mr Stokes.

Modern life has also heightened the need to include day-to-day financial and property management within the realm of estate planning.

“The over 65s are living longer, but their children are flat out working fulltime and raising kids of their own,” says Josh Byers.

“This has created the so-called sandwich generation – time-poor people caught between tending to the needs of their ageing parents, while in the thick of managing their own lives.

“The stress is all the more real for those living in a different town or country from their parents.”

Public Trust research revealed the need for a tailored service for managing everyday financial and property matters. It created Personal Assist – a service designed to free up time for families by removing some of the burden when dealing with other issues, as well as provide protection from financial abuse.

Josh Byers believes such a service will eventually become mainstream in coping with the challenges of later life. However, a cultural shift is needed before more parents and their children are comfortable transferring to an independent organisation what they see as their own responsibility.

“Estate management isn’t just about a having a will. It’s as much about living well as leaving well – something we hope comes across with the Tough Questions campaign,” he says.

The latest campaign videos can be viewed on Public Trust’s Tough Questions campaign page.


Contact: Ian Letham, Content and Communications Consultant

Phone: 022 070 0979