No matter what your age, or stage of life, it is important that you invest some time in planning how you would like your wishes to be carried out when you pass away. You may not think you own much of value, but remember your potential estate can include your superannuation, life insurance and chattels.
Careful estate planning will help to ensure that your intended beneficiaries actually receive your estate, as well as minimising the risk of claims being made against your estate. A well-drafted Will takes care of the ‘what ifs’ and importantly lets your loved ones know exactly what your wishes are.
Your Will puts you in control. You may not have thought about them, but here are some of the benefits:
Your Will allows you to appoint a person who you implicitly trust as your Executor. This person ensures that your wishes are carried into effect.
If you have children, and in the unfortunate event that both parents pass away prior to minor children attaining the age of 18, you can nominate a Legal Guardian for your children. It is beneficial to document this wish in your Will rather than just expressing this wish to family and/or friends, as that may not hold up if you pass away without a Will.
Your Will ensures that you are able to choose who receives the benefits from your Estate. If you die without a Will, your wishes are may not be carried into effect and your Estate will be dealt with under the Rules of Intestacy (which may be contrary to your intentions).
Reduce the risk of claims
Although there is no guaranteed solution to prevent a dependent from making a claim against your Estate when you pass away, a formal Will holds evidentiary weight of your intended beneficiaries and your wishes regarding your property and other assets. Additional clauses in your Will (and due consideration to possible asset protection strategies) can reduce the risk of claims being successful.
Reduce estate administration costs and stress
Although you may think that preparing a formal Will is a costly exercise, not having a Will can be much more costly for your loved ones on your passing. A Will ensures that your loved ones do not need to spend additional funds in the process of the estate administration. The absence of a Will can also place unnecessary stress and burden on your loved ones to carry out what they think would be your wishes.
If you operate a business or have a corporate structure in place (for example, a trust or company), then it is vital that these structures be reviewed to ensure that the business continues to operate upon your passing and the control of your corporate structures are passed to your intended beneficiaries. Trusts and Companies are non-Estate assets and these entities must be structured correctly so that measures are put in place in your Will to ensure they pass to your intended beneficiary/s in the manner that you intend.
Depending on the nature and extent of your assets, you may wish to incorporate a Testamentary Discretionary Trust into your Wills. This type of Trust offers essential asset protection, and can help your beneficiaries minimise the tax payable on their inheritance.
If you would like more information, please get in touch. Our estate planning experts, Joanne Carusi and Emma Blay can help you navigate this sometimes-tricky jurisdiction.