The Ken and Barbie Syndrome

The Ken and Barbie Syndrome

 The Ken and Barbie Syndrome! They come to us, an ageing couple with death in mind and thoughts aligned.

Theirs is a familiar tale – we want to keep it simple and leave everything to each other and then to the kids. We can do that, I say but, without wanting to rain on your mutual desires, may I raise a delicate subject.

  • What you want is very common – we call them ‘mirror wills’
  • But your Will is your wish and you can change it anytime you like (usually)
  • At this point, allow me to descend into verse:

          ‘Mirror mirror on the wall
          Will my spouse for love doth fall?

  • The future can be hard to predict except to say one of you will normally die first
  • The other one could then discover line dancing and meet a later life love
  • So enamoured are they with twinkle toes, they promptly change their Will to give everything to the new found hussy/lothario and disinherit your children

Most couples at this point of the discussion will turn and peer at each other, not so much longingly, but more malevolently. Some say, “You wouldn’t would you?!”  whereas others are heard to mumble “Who would want you?!”

We call it the Ken and Barbie Syndrome – a fear of what the surviving spouse might ‘get up to’ when the other has gone on their celestial transfer.

Most determine it is not a risk which perhaps can be viewed either, at best, as a compliment to each other or, at worst, a scathing assessment of the lack of, shall we call it, marketability of their spouse.

Believe it or not however, for those who take the scenario seriously, the law has mechanisms to address the concern. The most common is a contract. The spouses not only do their mirror Wills but we prepare another document to go with their Wills called a “Contract to Make a Will”. In it they each agree not to change their Wills without the consent of the other or their Executor.

The law of life and later on is so interesting, isn’t it?

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Authored by: Brian Herd

Brian is a partner in the firm and has been a lawyer since 1983. He is recognised as one of Australia’s leading experts in the areas of elder law, retirement, disability and aged care. Brian has extensive experience in life planning for older people and the legal issues impacting on them including making Wills, administering estates, disputes over Wills, superannuation, social security, retirement villages and aged care, incapacity, the Guardianship Regime, the loss of a spouse or the ‘suddenly single syndrome’, planning for disabled children, elder abuse, enduring powers of attorney, advance health directives, family agreements and disputes and mediation. His expertise also extends to the structuring of business affairs and advising on the impact of the transfer of interests in family businesses including trusts and family companies. As a passionate believer in the crucial role of charitable and community organisations, he also spends a significant amount of his time advising the not for profit and community sectors on Board governance, restructuring and constitutional review, mergers and acquisitions, legal compliance and risk management especially in the aged care, retirement and disability sectors. Brian is a popular presenter in public forums on elder law issues and is also regularly invited to address the changing legal dynamics and needs of the aged care and disability sectors at industry conferences. In 2014, for the second year in a row, Brian was named one of Australia’s best lawyers in Retirement Villages and Senior Living Law. Qualifications, Memberships and Other Contributions: •Bachelor of Arts – University of Queensland •Bachelor of Laws (Hons) – University of Queensland •Deputy Chair – Queensland Law Society’s Elder Law Committee •Former part time member – Queensland Law Reform Commission •International member – National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys of America •Member – Queensland Law Society •Approved Facilitator for Corporate Governance – Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency •Member – QPAC Choir •Adjunct Lecturer – Griffith University

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