Every adult Australian needs a Will, but this often gets overlooked. Confronting our own mortality and making an estate plan makes some people uncomfortable.
There’s no law that says you must have an estate plan—but there are laws in every State and Territory in Australia that determine how your property is distributed if you don’t have a Will.
So, are you happy to let the Government decide who gets your assets?
If you don’t have a Will when you pass away, there is a statutory formula in each State to determine who gets your assets. The formula varies from time to time and from place to place.
In some states, step-children can potentially benefit, while in other states they cannot. In some circumstances the Government itself can end up with your assets.
If you don’t at least have a Last Will and Testament, State statutes decide who gets your assets after you pass away. That’s one of the biggest reasons planning is important, if you want to be the one making those decisions.
An estate plan can be simple if you only own a few assets, or complicated if you have significant assets, more than one home or multiple investments.
Some strategies are easier to implement, like a Last Will and Testament. Others can be more complex, like trusts.
Whatever your needs, a lawyer specialising in Wills and estate planning will be able to give you the guidance that your unique situation requires.
Your estate planning lawyer may work with your financial advisor and accountant to be sure that your financial and legal plans work together to benefit you and your family.
The first step for any estate plan is to review your family finances, dynamics and assets.
- Who are your family members?
- How do you want to help them?
- What do they need?
- What is your tax picture like?
- How old are you, and how good is your health?
- Do you have minor children? If so, who will care for them if you’re gone?
These are just a few of the things an estate planning lawyer will discuss with you. Once you are clear on your situation, you’ll discuss overall goals and objectives.
The lawyer will be able to outline your options, whether you are concerned with passing wealth to the next generation, avoiding family disputes, protecting your assets from creditors and predators, preparing for a disability or transferring ownership of a business.
A Last Will and Testament provides clear, legal direction as to how your assets should be distributed and who will care for your minor children.
A trust is used to address more complex planning concerns. A trust is a legal entity that holds assets to be used for the benefit of one or more individuals. It is overseen by a trustee or trustees, who can be individuals you name or professionals.
If you create trusts, it is important that assets be retitled so the trust owns the assets and not you personally. If the assets are not retitled, the trust cannot achieve your goals.
Some property typically has its own beneficiary designations, like superannuation and life insurance. These assets can pass directly to heirs according to the designation, but only if you make valid designations in the right way on the appropriate forms.
This is far more complex than most Australians realise. It is highly recommended that you get the right advice about these matters from your estate planning lawyer when you are creating your modern integrated plan.
Once you’ve created your estate plan, make a note on your calendar. This is not a set-and-forget exercise. Estate plans and beneficiary designations need to be reviewed every three to five years.
Lives change, laws change and your estate plan needs to keep pace. It is critical that you keep your estate planning documents up to date.
And don’t be fooled into thinking that a DIY Will is a good idea. Most people make terrible mistakes with those kit-Wills, and the mistakes only come to light after you’ve died and it’s too late to fix them. That’s a big risk to your family’s future!
Don’t risk allowing the Government to decide who gets your assets. Take charge and work with an experienced estate planning lawyer to make sure you are the one deciding who gets your assets and who will raise your children. It is an excellent investment to help protect yourself, your family and your assets.
For more information on Wills and creating a modern integrated estate plan to guard against intestacy, or other estate planning topics, contact the oldest law firm in South Australia – Genders and Partners (established 1848) to explore our articles and visit our website today to schedule your free consultation!
SPECIAL REPORT “7 Things You Must Know Before You Make Your Will”
In this report you will Learn:
Why home-made Wills can be a LOT more expensive than you might think.
The secret weapons used by the rich & powerful to protect their assets, and transfer their wealth two or three generations ahead.
How Estate and Trustee Companies make BIG money from “free” Wills.
The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes, how they can cost your family a fortune, and How to Avoid Them.
The Elements of a Sound Estate Plan – why a Will alone is not enough.
How to Make Sure Your Assets Stay in Your Family and are not lost to creditors, lawsuits or ex-spouses.
How to guard against challenges to your Estate after you’re gone.