Lawyers


Is Your Will Up To Date?

As a regular contributor to the Christchurch law society magazine, one of our Directors, Andrew Nuttall, has recently written a thoughtful article about wills.
Although aimed primarily at the legal profession, there is some great information here for all of us on a topic that, although none of us really want to think about it, is vitally important for us and those we will leave behind.

Over the last 30 years I have met with many prospective clients who do not have an up-to-date will. How much family tension have you seen that could have been avoided if clients had taken more care with their estate planning?

We have all come across people who need a will but are reluctant to contemplate their demise. We are all, however, going to need a will and having a relevant one makes it easier on those left behind. The inability to admit that their death will occur cannot be the only reason many are reluctant to have an up-to-date will. It has to be something more than that.

Historically, some lawyers have often given wills away for nothing – a mistake in my opinion by the way.  Has this created a reluctance to pay for what is a valuable service?  Why is it that people fail to address their estate planning appropriately?

» Have you subconsciously determined the objections to paying for a will are too pronounced to justify spending sufficient time with your clients to help them think carefully about their estate planning?

» Are your clients failing to recognise the value and peace of mind they will gain by having well-drafted wills and estate plans?

» Are you not recognising or underestimating the value and peace of mind you provide your clients by encouraging them to think about their estate planning?

» Has the importance of having an up-to-date and well-drafted will been under-mined by offers of “free” wills?

Wills are one of our most important documents, we are all going to need one.

Below is a list of, what I hope are, helpful suggestions that I have picked up over the years from estate planning lawyers:

» Have your client list their assets and liabilities, family members and any friends or organisations they might want to recognise – this may help them realise quite why they do need a will.

» Ask your client the following question. “If you had passed away yesterday what would you want to see happen to your assets tomorrow?” There is nothing like confronting your own mortality to get us thinking.

» Ask your client who would be the best people to be responsible and ensure their assets ended up in the right hands and their wishes are implemented? The prospect of their incompetent uncle making decisions can create some intent.

» Do not post out a draft will and wait for it to be signed and returned. Many people have neither the ability nor inclination to read a legal document – it ends up sitting on the kitchen bench, unsigned. Why not, at the conclusion of your initial meeting, make a time to meet again – a call to action and a commitment to do something all in one?

» If your client is reluctant to sign the newly-drafted will, urge them to do so as it is likely to be better than their existing, out of date, will or the non-existent one.


Decision Fatigue Remedies

Original article printed in the Canterbury Tales magazine.

In my last article I referred to a study by professors at Ben Gurion University and Columbia Business School and edited by psychologist, Daniel Kahneman who was the awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in behavioral economics. Readers may recall that willpower, just like our muscles, can fatigue with too much use and this can lead to poor decision-making. It is apparent that we only have so much willpower to use every day so how do we best make use of what we have?

  1. Do the most important things first. If you were before a judge, you would want their best attention, energy and focus wouldn’t you? The aforementioned research indicated that a prisoner is more likely to receive a favourable hearing from a judge if their application for parole was heard early in the day. So if you have a particularly challenging piece of work to do or letter to write, do it first thing when your brain is fresh. Our first few hours in the morning can be our most productive.
  2. Write your to-do list the day before. As our bodies tire from exertion our brains also become tired. Decisions we make over and over again can weaken our willpower. You might find it helpful to make up your mind the night before on what you are going to wear to work and for this reason leaders like Barrack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same thing to work every day since it removes their need to make a decision about how they are going to dress. By making up your mind the night before you will have used less energy on some repeated daily decisions and have more energy for the important things.
  3. Schedule the important things. We all have things that are important to us, some of which might not be work related e.g. losing five kilos, getting started on your book or article or saving money. Rather than relying on willpower and motivation to make the right decisions each day or month, schedule them in your diary and automate them. Arrange an automatic payment into a separate savings or investment account or make additional mortgage payments each month.
  4. Refresh your brain during the day. We can’t complete every important task in the first few hours so plan to take appropriate breaks during the day. The study I have referred to concluded that the judges made better decisions after eating so when it is important to get the best results from your mind put food into your body and take time out with meditation or a walk along the riverbank.

I hope these ideas will be helpful for you as you finish another busy year. I suggest you take some time over the summer break to refresh and reflect on small changes you can make that will help you achieve more for you and those close to you. Best wishes for a most successful 2016. I hope it will be your best year ever.

Andrew Nuttall, Director, Bradley Nuttall Ltd

Andrew Nuttall is an Authorised Financial Adviser at Bradley Nuttall Ltd. He can be contacted on 03-364 9119 or andrew@bnl.co.nz His disclosure statement is available free of charge and on demand.


Willpower, Decision Fatigue and Judges

Original article printed in the Canterbury Tales magazine.

Have you ever come home from a busy day in the office with the intention of going to the gym, spending time with the kids, clearing emails or undertaking reading on behalf of a client… only to end up blobbing out on the couch or watching TV?

How often do we have every intention to eat less and spend less only to find ourselves having that extra glass of wine, plate of desert or buying another expensive handbag, pair of shoes or updating the car?

According to psychologists, making incorrect, unhealthy or unproductive choices might not be a lack of willpower but the result of what scientists call “decision fatigue”.

Why Some Criminals Don’t Get a Fair Hearing

In a study published in 2011 by Colombia Business School and Ben Gurion University of Negev, psychologists examined factors that impacted on 1,112 judicial rulings over a 10-month period by parole board judges whose task was to determine whether or not to allow the criminal to be released from prison.

The study concluded that decisions made by judges were impacted by the time of the day despite, no doubt, the judges’ motivation to apply legal and objective reasoning. Researchers found that at the beginning of a day, a judge was likely to give a favourable ruling about 65% of the time. However, as the morning wore on and the judge became more drained from making more and more decisions, the likelihood of the criminal getting a favourable ruling steadily dropped towards zero. After taking a lunchbreak the judge would return to the courtroom refreshed and the likelihood of a favourable decision would immediately jump back to 65%. As the hours moved on, the percentage of favourable rulings again fell back towards zero.

What is Happening Here?

As it turns out, it seems that our willpower is like a muscle and just as the muscles of our bodies become fatigued when used over and over, so does our willpower. Every time we make a decision, it’s like doing another rep in the gym, and the strength of our willpower fades.

It seems that decision fatigue resulted in the judges denying more parole requests.

Why is This Important?

It is apparent that decision fatigue occurs every day of our lives. If you have a particular “decision heavy” day at work, and have some important work to do, it may be necessary to take a break and eat something. Maybe we are best to arrange important meetings earlier in the day? Otherwise we may find our decision fatigue leads us to saying no when in another moment we might have given greater attention and said yes.

In the next article, I will look at ways we can better organise our lives to make better decisions by reducing decision fatigue and maintaining willpower.

Andrew Nuttall is a Director and Authorised Financial Adviser at Bradley Nuttall Ltd. He can be contacted on phone 03 364 9119 or andrew@bnl.co.nz. His Disclosure Statement is available on request and free of charge.