estate-planning-caring-for-elderly-parents

Estate Planning – Caring for Elderly Parents

estate-planning-caring-for-elderly-parents

Since 1900, life expectancy for Australians has increased by over 30 years. The average life expectancy of a newborn girl used to be 51 years. Now it is 84 years. But how do we care for our elderly relatives once they begin to lose the ability to care for themselves?

Over the past 125 years there have been massive changes in our health and lifestyle. What Australians now die of, and the age at which they die, is very different to what it used to be. Up until 1932, infectious and parasitic diseases caused at least 10% of all deaths each year, with death rates from these diseases highest among the very young and very old. Improvements in living conditions, such as better water supplies, sewerage systems, food quality and health education, have led to overall lower death rates and longer life expectancy at all ages.

who-gets-the-jewellery

Who gets the jewellery?

who-gets-the-jewellery

When administering a deceased estate, love and law can intersect in the context of grief, causing problems for those left behind. Small things can set-off major family feuds.

For most families, a desire for personal effects is less about what they are worth and more about their sentimental value. Medals, jewellery and personal items are often the subject of strong feelings.

People in grief can behave irrationally, and their high emotions can create powerful symbols out of ordinary objects – a grandfather’s watch, a necklace, the rings mother wore – and in their minds the items become confused with how much the deceased loved them, rather than the market value of the items in question.

Where Did My Pension Go@2x

Where Did My Pension Go

Where Did My Pension Go@2x

In our shrinking world where travel and communication are faster and easier than ever before, it seems that ‘foreigners’ are being officially targeted by every government in the world.

The issue is everywhere in the media at present. Foreign corporations not paying enough local tax. Cashed-up foreigners trying to buy big chunks of our real-estate. From anti-migration walls to offshore detention facilities, it seems that the people holding the purse-strings are blaming foreigners as the reason for our economic decline.

So how likely is it that the Government would try to reduce the pension entitlements for Australians from migrant backgrounds as part of a budget-savings measure?

Negative Gearing hot potato or poison pill?

Negative Gearing – hot potato or poison pill?

Negative Gearing hot potato or poison pill?

In Australia over the last 30 years, any spending in pursuit of rental income from an investment property is tax-deductible, unless the spending is of a capital or private/domestic nature. This is known as ‘negative gearing’.

The owner can claim a deduction for the cost of repairing an investment property, but not initial repairs when the property was first purchased.

Some commentators think that negative gearing has distorted the housing market. They point to negative gearing as one of the main factors in housing affordability having halved in real terms over the last 30 years since negative gearing has been in place.

Increased tax on Super income

Increased tax on Super income

Increased tax on Super income

Earnings from superannuation accounts for retirees in the pension phase are currently tax­free.
In April 2015 the Federal Opposition (Labor’s Bill Shorten) proposed that Super earnings $75,001 and above be taxed at 15 per cent. The Labor Party estimates that would affect about 60,000 people and raise $9.2 billion over 10 years.
I predict that the Government will introduce a threshold above which extra rates of income tax will apply to Super income. Whether that threshold is $75,000 or $150,000 or some other number, I don’t know. But I’d be willing to bet that it’s too big a honey-pot for governments to resist for much longer.

Capping or removal of CGT exemption on family home

Capping or removal of CGT exemption on family home

Capping or removal of CGT exemption on family home

At present, the family home (principal place of private residence) is exempt from Capital Gains Tax.  Some analysts have suggested that this concession is skewed towards the wealthiest in the community, and there is a push to remove this exemption for the most expensive residential properties.

In 2009 a report by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence and the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute claimed this CGT exemption is worth on average $10,000 a year for the wealthiest 20 per cent of home owners, but worth just $1200 a year for the bottom 20 per cent of households.  The suggestion is that it is unfair that those on the highest incomes are getting much more benefit than anyone else.

Increased tax on Super contributions

Increased tax on Super contributions

Increased tax on Super contributions

During its last term in office, the Federal Labor party introduced a superannuation charge for people earning more than $300,000 annually, taxing these people’s contributions at 30 per cent, while everyone else pays 15 per cent on contributions.

In April 2015 the Federal Opposition (Labor’s Bill Shorten) proposed to lower the threshold to double the superannuation tax on contributions to 30% for many Australians to raise more than $5 billion over a decade.

Increased Super Guarantee Charge

Increased Super Guarantee Charge

Increased Super Guarantee Charge

In 1986, 3 per cent superannuation was awarded by the then Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as part of a productivity and wage package. Over time that increased progressively. For a long time it was stuck at 9%. It is currently 9.5% in 2015–16, and incremental increases are legislated each subsequent year to get to 12% in 2019–20.

In the 1995-96 Budget, the then Treasurer outlined the Keating Government’s proposal to further increase superannuation contributions to 15 per cent.

In this “immediate gratification” society, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that governments don’t trust individuals to behave in a way that gives them sufficient savings for their own needs later in life. This obviously has consequences for the public purse, necessitating subsidisation by the state (at taxpayers’ expense). For governments, mandatory savings schemes like Super are also a mechanism to shift reliance on future tax-payer funded pensions to private savings.

Death duty or inheritance tax reintroduced

Death duty or inheritance tax reintroduced

Death duty or inheritance tax reintroduced

On 15 October 2009 the most senior tax-policy advisor to the Australian Federal Government, Dr Ken Henry (Chair – Australia’s Future Tax System Review Panel and Secretary to the Treasury) gave an Address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

In that address he identified 6 areas of future opportunities and challenges governments will need to address in respect to taxation. At the very top of his list was: “the ageing of the population, posing challenges for the financing of retirement incomes and of increasing health and aged care needs”.

Dr Henry said that taxes levied on broader bases would be more efficient policy tools, probably more equitable and certainly more transparent ways of raising revenue. Without such tools, governments would otherwise be compelled to continue to rely on bad taxes to achieve their spending objectives.

Capping or removal of family home from eligibility test for social security benefits

Capping or removal of family home from eligibility test for social security benefits

Capping or removal of family home from eligibility test for social security benefits

The age pension was introduced by Labor prime minister Andrew Fisher in 1908 as a safety net for Australians in the last years of their life. When it was first established, the age for eligibility was set at 65 – when the average life expectancy for Australian men was 63. It was not expected that most people would live long enough to receive it, and those they did would not get it for very long.

With advancements in health care and medical science, our life expectancies have risen dramatically, and the cost of the age-pension has ballooned into the single largest federal program.

It cost $36 billion in 2013, almost 10 per cent of the entire Federal budget, a bill that has risen by $13 billion over the past decade as Australians became healthier and lived longer. Annual administration costs are estimated at $1 billion a year.