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Many people are hesitant to talk about death and dying, yet around 85 per cent of people will die after chronic illness, not a sudden event, and this means that most people will benefit from considering the type of care they would want during that illness, particularly near the end of their lives.

In an inquiry into palliative care in 2012, the Australian Government reported that failure to talk about and plan for death is one of the most significant obstacles to improving the quality of dying.  If a person has not communicated their care preferences, end-of-life decisions will often need to be made by close family and friends who may not honour the dying person’s wishes or argue over care and end of life decisions.  This is supported by previous research conducted by Relationships Australia, where a significant minority of male and female survey respondents indicated they were worried their family would fight over end of life decisions, including their aged care.

After a person’s death, the division of their estate can also cause conflict and stress for family and friends, especially if the person has not prepared a will.  According to the NSW government, only around 55% of Australians have a valid will, with the remaining 45% having no will or a will that is not up to date.  The intricate and multi-layered structure of many modern families can also mean that surviving family members need to navigate through complex family dynamics to make decisions about the deceased person’s estate.  The breakdown of family relationships and re-partnering can also increase the risk of inheritance disputes and arguments after parents and/or step-parents have died.

In May 2016, Relationships Australia asked visitors to our website to participate in a two‑minute survey that asked them how comfortable they felt discussing death and dying, whether they had planned for the end of their life and whether they had discussed their wishes with their family and friends.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites