Genders and Partners

Intestacy: How Property is Distributed without a Will

When a person dies without a Will, this is known as dying “intestate”.  This might happen because their death occurs before they even considered writing a Will. Some people feel that they don’t need a Will because they don’t have a substantial estate. A person might write a Will, only to have a Court declare it invalid after they die, which has the same legal effect as dying without a Will at all.

When a person dies without a Will, the law has to find a way to distribute that person’s property. In some parts of the world, the government will take most or all of the deceased’s estate, but in most western countries there is a strong preference in the law to keep property in the family of the deceased, generally leaving it to the closest living relatives.

The exact order of priorities among relatives differs from state to state in Australia, but the goals of intestacy law (keeping property in the family) are broadly the same, so the schemes in each State are usually quite similar.

Often the surviving spouse will receive the first “piece” of the deceased’s estate. The value of this piece varies over time.  For example, in South Australia for many years the surviving spouse in an intestacy would receive the first $10,000 plus a percentage of the remaining estate. In February 2009, the law in South Australia was changed to increase this to $100,000 plus a percentage of the remaining estate.

live-well-at-retirement-199x300.jpg

How to Live Well in Retirement

How to Live Well in Retirement

Are you nervous about the recent volatility in the markets, as you approach retirement age?

Everyone hopes for a comfortable retirement, but how many really plan for a long and fulfilling retirement? You know you should put money away for your retirement, but as that day approaches (particularly with world share markets and superannuation funds in crisis), which financial and investment strategies should you follow to help yourself enjoy the lifestyle you’ve envisioned?

You could literally spend decades in retirement. With advances in medicine and healthcare, it is actually becoming increasingly likely that Australians will live longer in retirement than they were in the workforce. Keep this type of longevity in mind when you create investment strategies for your retirement.

man-thinking-199x300.jpg

Death Benefits … Who Benefits? Do you know who will receive the benefits from your life insurance policy and superannuation fund?

Death Benefits … Who Benefits? Do you know who will receive the benefits from your life insurance policy and superannuation fund?

You need to decide who should benefit from your assets or for whom you wish to provide financially.

You should be clear on how you want your beneficiaries to benefit – do you want them to inherit an asset, an income or cash?

Your Will cannot dictate who inherits the benefits from your life assurance policy.  You might think you can revoke the beneficiaries you have nominated on a life insurance policy by simply nominating other beneficiaries in your Will. But your loved ones might be in for a nasty surprise, when they find out (after your death) that you were wrong.

The life insurer has a contractual relationship with you as the policyholder, and they will only pay out the benefits to the beneficiaries nominated in your insurance contract, regardless of whether your Will states otherwise.

If you want to change your life insurance policy beneficiaries, you need to do this directly with your life insurance company.  You can’t do it in your Will.

Similarly, when it comes to your superannuation fund benefit, the discretion to distribute your death benefit lies with the trustees of the super fund, and they might not necessarily follow your wishes as stated on your beneficiary nomination form.  It is a complex area of the law, which may well have changed since you started with your super fund.

Death & taxes, illness & share-market corrections may be unavoidable … but they don’t have to ruin your family or your business.  Make the effort to protect the people you really care about.  Call Genders & Partners to create an integrated estate plan and avoid questions regarding death benefits in Adelaide and other areas in South Australia. And do it NOW … before it is too late.

PET-DOG-300x199.jpg

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Caring for Pets after we’re gone

Caring for Pets after we’re gone

When we die, we will leave behind us a lot of things that someone else will have to sort-out.  The administration of our deceased estate will include providing for our loved-ones, and dealing with our assets and debts.  A carefully drawn Will as part of an integrated estate plan will greatly simplify the process.

Most of us would also want to make some sort of arrangement for the care and accommodation of our family pets.  Yet for some reason most people never turn their attention to this issue.

Maybe it’s just too sad to think of parting from our beloved furry companion, or perhaps it’s just too hard to know what to do.

Some people try to do the right thing by their pets, but are ineffective in how they do it.  They might make a half-hearted effort to extract promises from family or friends that their animals will be given homes if they die. But those promises are not binding contractual agreements.  Circumstances and intentions may change.  The cost of properly caring for a pet needs to be taken into account.  It is a sad reality that animal shelters are overflowing with discarded pets.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just leaving money in our Wills in our pet’s name, but there are ways to provide financially for our pet’s care. In many jurisdictions around the world, including Australia, pets are not allowed to be named as beneficiaries in Wills in Adelaide because only people and organisations can be named.

However we can leave money for a pet through a trust. We can specify who will look after the pet, who will make the decisions about the pet’s care and how much money is spent on the pet’s maintenance and healthcare.

financial-planning-300x300.jpg

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Financial Planning … one of the important elements of Estate Planning

Financial Planning … one of the important elements of Estate Planning

How much money will you need to meet your retirement goals? Have you allowed for share-market contractions, inflation, and unexpected emergencies?  In the event of death or disability, will your family be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, or will everything you have worked-for be at risk? These are just a few of the many issues that need to be considered in a formal Financial Plan, which is one component of an integrated Estate Plan.

You should sketch out a “mud-map” of your goals, and the steps needed to achieve them.  You also should put in place monitoring safeguards to check that your investments are performing up to expectations.

So how do you determine your financial goals and develop a plan to reach them?

Most people need help to do this, and this is why there is a whole industry of people and companies fighting for your business, to help you develop and implement your financial plan. Just look in the Yellow Pages under Financial Planners, and you’ll see dozens of listings.

All banks & insurers, and most accountants, have Financial Planners on staff.  Many of them will have a separate financial planning division.  There are also lots of specialist financial planners in their own businesses.  So who should you choose to help you with your financial plan?

Since March 2004 Australians have enjoyed the protection of the Financial Services Reform Act, which imposed high standards designed to protect you whenever you deal with banks, building societies, credit unions, insurance companies, superannuation and managed funds or with stockbrokers, financial planners and insurance brokers.

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: How Much to Live? Planning to Retire

How Much to Live? Planning to Retire

I had a dream the other night – it was the scene from Life of Brian where the convicts are lined up before an officious jailer, who is ticking-off their fate on a clipboard: “Crucifixion? Line on the left – one cross each!”

But in my dream-version, I was confronted with a bean-counting accountant in front of a supermarket check-out till, behind which the line branched away into two corridors marked “Live” or “Die”.

I saw myself reaching for my wallet, asking “How much to live?”

In a weird kind of way, this is a very relevant, and thoroughly modern, estate planning question.

Back in the day, men retired at age 65 and women retired at 60.  They received the old-age pension, and generally died in their 70’s.

Now, nobody can afford to retire at any age, because the pension barely covers the cost of the petrol needed to drive to the Department to collect the cheque in the first place, and yet we’re all living to 100! The Queen must be going broke with all the telegrams she has to send nowadays to people reaching their hundredth birthday.

elder-3d-300x300.jpg

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Elder Care & Retirement Planning

Elder Care & Retirement Planning

Australians are living longer than ever before. About 5000 people are turning 65 every day, yet health care & retirement planning are things many people neglect. As a result many people find themselves struggling just to get-by in their golden years.

A proper financial plan, as part of an integrated estate plan, will consider the Medicare & Centrelink entitlements of each individual within the context of their family and personal situation.  The plan will include long-term care & medical treatment, accommodation & various insurances.

As we accumulate wealth we hope that one day, we can pass it on to our children and loved ones. But without proper estate planning, a protracted illness or accident can rapidly use-up that wealth leaving us with little or nothing to pass-on. Loved ones may inherit far less than they or you expected.  Without adequate asset protection mechanisms and insurances, existence can be much colder & meaner than it needs to be.

Learning how to use estate planning is an essential life-skill for retirees.  It helps to insure that the wealth you worked so hard to build goes where you want it to. You can protect your children’s inheritance, your hard-earned retirement benefits and assets, and much more.

Estate planning can help you with your golden years. Through it you can start learning the ins and outs of elder care, long term insurance, Medicare and more today. Don’t let your lack of planning be your downfall.

management-300x225.jpg

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Expectation Management

As Baby Boomers, we are leaving the workforce in record numbers.

Expectation Management

This leads to some uncomfortable predictions about the lifestyle we can expect in retirement, and what the Government will do to help us.

In Australia, we have not felt the impact of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) as quickly or as hard as many other countries (like Greece or Ireland).

But recently, the International Monetary Fund said “The global economy is in a dangerous new phase”, so it is natural to be concerned about our own futures – especially if our most productive years are behind us. It is not easy to recover from a financial reversal when our ability to earn is diminishing with age.

With market volatility in recent months reaching levels not seen since the GFC, it is worth looking at the key factors affecting our economy in this new financial climate.

Populations in most developed countries like Australia are ageing. As people retire, incomes fall and spending patterns must be adjusted downwards. In some countries, economic growth has been extremely low and price deflation has occurred. An ageing population lowers the number of citizens available to work and requires more government assistance in terms of pensions, health care services and other benefits.

danger-300x300.jpg

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: The Dangers of DIY Wills and Estate Planning

The Dangers of DIY Wills and Estate Planning

Some people resist or resent spending money on estate planning, because they think (wrongly) they won’t gain the benefits themselves.

In difficult financial times like these, some folks may be tempted to postpone or minimise what might seem like a non-essential expenditure.

Every week, thousands of television advertisements from insurance companies encourage people to bypass lawyers and create their own Wills, using cheap or free “Will kits”.

The big ugly truth about these kits is that people make a lot of mistakes when they try to create their own Wills and estate planning documents. They have been lulled into a false sense of security. But answering just one question incorrectly or overlooking something such as appointing a guardian for children can lead to major problems down the road.

There are lots of traps for the unwary, and this whole area of law regarding deceased estates contains a hidden minefield which you absolutely want to avoid. And with a bit of education & planning, they can. Otherwise they won’t know the questions to ask, or what to do with the answers.

legacy-plan-199x300.jpg

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Planning an Enduring Legacy

Planning an Enduring Legacy

What do you want to be remembered for, after you’re gone?

Traditional Wills describe the worldly possessions you want your loved ones to have. This sort of document is the oldest and best known component in estate planning.

In addition to the Will there are additional types of documents that are now widely recommended as part of modern integrated estate planning. These include Advance Medical Directives which may be used to express your wishes with regard to medical preferences in case you subsequently find yourself in a situation where you can’t make your own decisions. This sort of “Living Will” can address issues relating to end-of-life decisions such as life support and to define the extent of use of artificial means to keep you alive if there is no hope of recovery.  There are also all sorts of other documents which allow you to delegate control and decision-making, such as various categories of Powers-of-Attorney.