Migrant Families

There are many reasons why so many people do not have a valid, up-to-date will. One of these is the perception that “it’s all too hard”.


Until I became a practitioner in this area, my family was no exception. My immediate family consists of my mother, my father, my sister and, of course, myself. There are lots of things that distinguish us as a unique family but two that are particularly relevant to the subject of this article. 


  1. We are immigrants. We emigrated from Wales in 1988. We have a large, close-knit family but none of them reside here in WA.
  2. My sister, Rhianna, has an intellectual disability. I will discuss this further in Part II of this article. 


Perth is full of migrants. In fact, it seems that I much more frequently meet people from overseas than I do people who are Perth born and bred. We all know the benefits of living in this State but migrants do have to make sacrifices in order to live here. A difficulty often encountered by clients who have migrated to Australia is who would look after their children if they were to pass away. If there is family in the country then that is usually the obvious answer, but what if there is no family here?


My parents faced this problem. They quickly made many friends including colleagues, neighbours and parents of their children’s friends. These people offer great support and a strong network of friends is invaluable. However, the responsibility of taking on the role of guardian is not one taken or received lightly and I doubt my parents would have dreamed of asking any of their new friends if they would be willing.


So what do you do? There is no easy answer to this question unfortunately. Just thinking about the prospect of both parents dying is enough to make anyone clam up. Families make such huge sacrifices to move to a new country, the thought of having their children go back ‘home’ to relatives doesn’t seem right, yet neither does asking new friends to raise them.


One solution is to just do nothing and hope for the best! This is what my parents did initially and it is understandable.


However, if the unthinkable happened, the unpleasantness of facing the issue now would far outweigh the difficulties faced by those left behind. I assist families to discuss these difficult issues and to ensure they have real peace of mind for the sake of themselves and their children.


Thankfully, my parents are still alive and well, happily spending our inheritance on endless holidays and cruises. I sincerely hope that they live to enjoy every last cent of their hard earned money, but I am also happy to be able to guide them in their estate planning, taking into account the many factors that make my family unique.


by Catherine Hopkin, July 2016

The information in this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be used as such. The information provided in this article is not intended to be comprehensive and is intended to provide general information only.

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