Estate planning is more than just making a Will; it is making decisions about the distribution of your assets, including superannuation, after you have died, so that your family will be cared for and so that the amount of tax and other costs is minimised. While no one wants to think about dying, it is an unavoidable part of life and if you prepare for it ahead of time your family will have much less stress to contend with.
In addition, your wishes about the distribution of your assets will be carried out, with your beneficiaries getting what you determine they should have. If you die intestate – without a will – this is unlikely to happen. In fact, with the complexities of families these days there could be a great deal of argument between all the family members, each wanting to get a share, or perhaps more than their fair share.
Components of estate planning
Talk about a Will makes it seem that is the only component of estate planning. However, other key documents that may be included as well as a Will are: –
- Superannuation death nominations – mentioning a beneficiary here will override the people mentioned in your Will as beneficiaries of this asset.
- Testamentary trusts – similarly, beneficiaries mentioned in the trust override names mentioned in the Will. The trust will protect your assets if your heirs are underage or in other cases where they may not be able to administer your assets properly. They have a specific expiry date, such as when minors reach 18/21.
- Powers of Attorney – this gives a trusted person the responsibility to administer your estate if you are not able to. They should be financially astute, especially if you own a business.
- Power of guardianship – this will take care of your children should you die while they are minors, or if you have a mentally or physically disabled child who will require ongoing care.
- Anticipatory direction – this is to record your wishes about your medical care in the case of you not being able to do so – for instance, if you have a stroke and can’t talk.
If you don’t make an Estate Plan and have no Will, the court will pay your debts, the tax and administration costs from your estate and then divide up what is left between those people deemed to be your heirs. You won’t have any say in who gets what or how much of your assets. And there will not be as much left as there would be if you had made an Estate Plan.
For this reason, as well as for your own peace of mind it is wise to contact your lawyer about making an Estate Plan as soon as possible. You have no idea when it will be needed, after all.