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At Slater and Gordon we can answer these questions and help you though the estate planning process.
When considering why you need an Estate Plan, ask yourself these questions
- Do you know when you are going to retire and what wealth you need to accumulate to maintain your lifestyle in retirement?
- If you died tomorrow how would your family survive financially?
- If you unexpectedly lost your mental capacity through accident or illness, who would be legally authorised to make legal, financial and health decisions on your behalf?
- What process is in place to ensure that you (whilst alive) or the executor of your estate can realise your interest in your business?
- Trust assets don’t form part of your deceased estate, so who have you planned to pass control of your trusts to and how?
- If you died tomorrow, would there be any surprises in your Will?
- Have you discussed the likelihood of you or your spouse remarrying after the first passes away?
- How well do your children (and their partners) get along?
- How stable are your dependants (in terms of ever facing bankruptcy, crime, mental health, addictions)?
- Do your children have Wills and Powers of Attorney?
- Are you and your children, and your spouse adequately insured?
- If you have a blended family, how do you ensure the surviving spouse honours your agreement about the final distribution of assets to both sets of children when the survivor dies?
What is included in an Estate Plan?
A well-balanced Estate Plan would include the following; (not all may be relevant to you).
- A Will
- An enduring Power of Attorney to manage financial and legal matters
- Appointment of a Power of Guardianship to manage health welfare matters
- Advanced Heath Care Directive or Living Will to direct what medical treatment you do or don’t want
- The integration of company, trust and superannuation structures
- The future realisation of your investment in a business
- Flexibility to accommodate changed laws, or changed circumstances that may exist at the time you die
- A tax-efficient structure addressing the income tax, Capital Gains Tax, GST and stamp duty implications of transferring assets and/or managing assets upon retirement, death or any other event
- The consideration of a range of critical events apart from death. These include:
- Mental and physical incapacity – yours or a beneficiary’s
- Bankruptcy or business failure – yours or a beneficiary’s
- Divorce – yours or a beneficiary’s
- Retirement, or
- The potential for disputes between beneficiaries over the Will
- Family Law Financial Agreements – to regulate ownership of assets in a relationship
- Testamentary trusts - these trusts can be created by your Will and come into existence after you pass away. For more information, visit our page on What is a Testamentary Trust Will?
- The use and integration of insurance as an asset in your plan, as part of a business succession scheme to cover debt or income, or simply to bolster the wealth of a future estate
- Incorporation of a retirement plan as well as investment and wealth accumulation strategies
A well thought-out plan includes components - including legal documents - that are coordinated with your retirement, investment and wealth accumulation strategies. It involves the consideration of asset protection, risk management (insurance and asset protection), taxation, investment planning, retirement planning and the use of legal structures all designed and coordinated to meet a your needs, and those of your family.
What is the process of Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is a three-part process involving;
- Identifying your personal assets, and those in your broader estate such as assets owned jointly, or owned by trusts, companies, superannuation or insurance
- Identifying potential risks you wish to plan around, while alive and after you pass away including, for example, your early death or a possible divorce or bankruptcy of a beneficiary
- Working with your lawyer, financial planner and accountant to design and implement a tailored plan that incorporates all your assets, and takes into account flexibility to accommodate future changes, risk minimisation, tax minimisation and succession issues.
Depending on the complexity of your personal and financial affairs each step may involve a multi-disciplinary exercise requiring the coordinated involvement of your financial planning, accounting and legal advisers.