Not Just a Will:
Estate planning is more than just a Will. It isn’t just about ensuring that your assets and investments are transferred to your family and loved ones in accordance with your wishes.
It is also about ensuring that your hard earned assets in your estate are received by the intended beneficiaries with the maximum value and without unnecessary cost. Taxation liabilities need to be managed and minimised, and asset protection needs to be considered.
The objective is to develop a structure during your lifetime that will allow you to continue to accumulate wealth, to protect your wealth and then distribute your wealth efficiently upon your passing.
The ultimate goal is for your assets to be transferred in the way you want, to the people you want, in a tax effective way and to minimise the ability for your estate to be attacked as a result of unforeseen events such as bankruptcy, divorce, family dispute, business failure and litigation.
Why Your Will isn’t enough:
Your Will is an important part of an effective estate plan, but not the only part. Your Will documents how the assets you own personally are to be distributed, but an estate plan also develops strategies for distributing your “non-estate assets”, or assets which pass outside your Will. These can include superannuation, company assets, trust assets and business assets.
If You Don’t Have a Will or your Will is Invalid:
If you have no Will when you die, a statutory formula, or the “rules of intestacy” will apply to the distribution of your estate, with no regard to you or your family’s wishes. This may result in your estate assets being paid to unintended beneficiaries or non-family members.
Your estate assets may be significantly reduced, and distribution may be delayed causing financial hardship to your family. Estate assets may be depleted because they were needed to fund expensive court costs associated with proving a potentially invalid Will. The stress on your family and extra cost of administration of an intestate estate can easily be avoided by ensuring that you plan for your future with an estate plan.
Wills can be either simple or complex, depending on your personalised needs. You may have a blended family and/or complex or sophisticated structures in place. You may wish to protect the interests of a disabled or “at risk” beneficiary. You may wish to ensure that your children receive the proceeds of your estate in the event that your surviving spouse re-marries. In this case your estate may best be protected from potential future claims and creditors through the use of a Testamentary Trust.
The Importance of Reviewing your Will and Estate Plan
Life is an evolving process and your needs, assets, structures, circumstances and beneficiaries inevitably change. Legislation also changes. You need to ensure that your Estate Plan is kept up to date to accommodate these changes.
There can be many advantages in establishing a properly drafted Will and Estate plan. Many pitfalls and unintended potentially costly mistakes may be avoided by if you plan in advance. You can maximise the benefits to your family in a time of trauma and need, and achieve your own peace of mind now.
As a general rule, you should consider making a new Will if you are:
• Buying or selling property or receiving a cash windfall
• Starting a business
• Going overseas
• Getting married
• Getting divorced or separated
• Having children
• Inheriting money or property
• Retiring, getting older or suffering an illness