Estate Planning

Estate planning is often a job put off. Life is short and you don’t want to spend it worrying about what will happen to your family and assets when you are gone. But can you really afford to?

Determining how your assets are to be bequeathed once you pass on is becoming more complex and critical as the amounts of money involved have grown over time as has the complexities of our personal relationships.

For example, blended families were once uncommon but are more often occurring within society these days.

Estate planning has three key steps:

1) The Documents

There are important documents that you need to consider in relation to your circumstances and ensure their appropriateness for you. The legal documents that you may require include:

  • Will: this outlines your wishes as to whom will receive what once you pass away.
  • Power of Attorney: this authorises someone to act on your behalf on financial matters if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • Enduring Guardianship: this authorises someone to act on your behalf with regard to non-financial matters such as medical care if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • Trust Deeds: these need to be reviewed to ensure the Appointor and Alternate Appointor are appropriate.
  • Superannuation Funds: these Funds need to be reviewed and a determination made as to whether a Binding Death Benefit Nomination is appropriate.
  • Company directorships and Share Registers: these need to be reviewed to understand the implications of death.
  • Life Insurance policies: these need to be reviewed to check who “owns” the policy and to whom the sum insured will be payable to – your “beneficiaries”.
  • Property Title Deeds: these need reviewing to check if properties are held as joint tenants or tenants in common.
  • Business Interests: these need to be managed or sold upon death of an owner and a Shareholders Agreement with an appropriate Buy/Sell Agreement can assist this process to ensure the deceased’s family is not left in an awkward position (in business with others) or out of pocket.

2) The Process

The factors you need to keep in mind when establishing a well rounded estate plan include:

  • The Executor is the person or persons who are charged with administering your estate. Their job is to collect the assets, pay the liabilities and distribute the estate in accordance with your Will.
  • Remember if it is not in your Will it probably won’t happen.
  • Dying without a Will (Intestate) will mean your estate will take longer to administer, cost more to administer and probably not ensure your assets are passed on in accordance with your wishes.
  • To best understand your situation we should summarise the assets held personally and those controlled through structures such as family trusts or Self Managed Superannuation Funds.
  • Determine who you wish to bequeath which assets to and what value to whom.
  • Consider the tax benefits and asset protection benefits of the various types of Testamentary Trusts and consider their appropriateness for use in your Will.
  • Determine what gifts you wish to make.
  • Consider who could potentially challenge your estate.
  • Obtain sound financial advice and legal advice to properly execute your wishes.

3) The Need for Review

Your assets and liabilities regularly change as do your personal relationships inside and outside the family structure. You might get married, divorced, have children, establish a new business entity or buy a new house.

All estate plans once finalised should be reviewed on a regular basis.

At Level One our advisers will step you through establishing your plan and, although we cannot provide legal advice, we will work alongside your solicitor to ensure all your bases are covered.

Contact us today.

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