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Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes with your Discretionary Family Trust

Discretionary trusts (often called family trusts) are very powerful planning tools you can use for all kinds of purposes. Trusts can simplify & minimise or even avoid probate, protect your beneficiaries from creditors or divorcing spouses and

Don’t Make These Common Mistakes with your Discretionary Family Trust

can provide for education for grandchildren or your favourite charities.

When a trust is part of your overall comprehensive estate plan, you should try to avoid these common trust mistakes:

Mistake 1: Failing to title assets in the name of your trust

If you have not put your assets into your trust, also called “funding” your trust, you have lost some of the benefits of your trust.

Any assets that are in your own name at the time of your death will probably need to be probated. However, any assets that are titled in the name of your trust at the time of your death will avoid probate and usually result in lower after-death administration costs.

In order to receive the protection and benefits capable of being provided by the trust, generally (except for superannuation funds and certain annuities) most of your assets would need to be transferred into your trust during your lifetime.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Create an Integrated Estate Plan That Works

There are lots of reasons why estate plans fail, including poor documents, failure to update them, careless titling of assets, and forgetting to nominate or update beneficiary designations.

Create an Integrated Estate Plan That Works

Then there are the situational problems, where there is a failure to properly address family issues and dynamics.

So how do you define an estate plan that will work for you and your family when it’s really needed?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the features I would ideally wish to see in an integrated estate plan:

It should give you access and control over your property while you are alive and well. This won’t be the case if your assets are jointly titled with someone other than your spouse or if you fail to follow through on the terms of a property settlement agreement after a divorce.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide- Comfort = Complacency?

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Comfort = Complacency?

As Baby Boomers start to keel-over, we are about to witness the greatest “transfer of wealth” ever in Australia’s history. This segment of society is a BIG chunk of our national population, and it represents a massive percentage of our private net-worth as a nation.

While this is happening, the Gen-X and Gen-Y youngsters are growing-up fast, and realising for the first time that bull-markets don’t last forever.  They now have new burdens of responsibilities to their own kids coming through behind them.  They are suddenly recognising that life doesn’t owe them, and they’ll have to work for what they want.  It will be interesting to see how they cope.  They’ve been raised in very good times, when the equity in our homes unlocked a never-ending orgy of consumerism.  Who needed to save, when debt was so much easier, and capital gains would take care of that.  Why delay gratification, when the latest big-screen home-theatre can be installed today, with payments over the next 10 years?

But now we are formally acknowledged to be in a debt-fuelled recession.  Our economy has been very kind to us for a long time, and people have become used to a certain level of comfort and security – but that is no longer guaranteed.

So how will you look after yourself and your family in these challenging times?  Have you created a fully-integrated estate plan, and reviewed it regularly?  Have you taken the steps necessary to preserve your wealth for your old-age, and to pass your assets onto the people you care about, or are you simply hoping to live forever?

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 for integrated estate planning in Adelaide and all over South Australia. And do it NOW … before it is too late.

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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.

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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.