Wills, Enduring Power of Attorneys and Estate Planning – What’s the big deal and why bother?

It is all too common especially in today’s busy world for people to put off estate planning.  Estate planning refers to tasks associated with setting up your assets and liabilities so that in the event of your death or incapacity the assets and liabilities are managed in accordance with your wishes, pass to the people you wish to benefit and ideally minimize expense and tax.   Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney are essential components of estate planning.

It is a common perception that there is no need or point for estate planning if you have very simple assets such as only owing a house, car, superannuation and one or two savings accounts.  However, this perception is also usually based on incorrect assumptions such as:

  • that in the event that you become incapacitated your spouse will automatically be able to make personal and financial decisions for you;
  •  that if you pass away without a Will that your spouse will automatically be entitled to your entire estate; and
  • that superannuation entitlements will automatically pass to the person nominated as a beneficiary to the fund or will automatically pass to the estate.

 

Do you actually know what assets and liabilities would fall into your estate should you pass away?  Do you know who can control and benefit from your estate?  Proper estate planning gives the answer to these questions and can:

  • save you, your estate and your beneficiaries money and expense by allowing your affairs to be managed in the most efficient way and in a way most likely to reduce potential conflicts;
  • give certainty to you and your family as to how your affairs are to be managed in the event of your incapacity and death;
  • allow your assets to be used for people you wish to benefit in the event of your incapacity or death.

 

A properly drafted Will and Enduring Power of Attorney that have been prepared as part of a total estate planning exercise should provide for arrangements in the event that something happens to you, and if something happens to your immediate next of kin.  Just as most of us consider putting on a seatbelt when you travel in a car an essential safety step even though you don’t actually think you are going to be in a car accident, everyone should take the essential safety step of having a current accurate and well considered Will and EPOA.

To assist in developing an effective estate plan and an appropriate Will and Enduring Power of Attorney you should ideally obtain legal and accounting advice.  It will be necessary for you to provide information regarding the following:

Past

  • previous marital and/or de facto spouses;
  • any matrimonial or de facto property settlement you have had;

Present

  • your assets, income, life insurance, superannuation and liabilities;
  • informal loans you have made to any person or that are owed by you;
  • your immediate family;
  • specific gifts you might wish to leave in your Will;

Future

  • who you wish to be the executor of your Will;
  • specific wishes you might have about a funeral or cremation;
  • who you would like to receive the benefit of your estate, and who would be your second choice if the first choice does not survive you;
  • who you would like to make personal and/or financial decisions for you if you could not do so;
  • if you would like any particular people to be able to have the benefit of your funds and/or property if you were incapacitated;
  • who you would nominate to be a guardian of any children of yours who are under eighteen, and any wishes you might have regarding care or benefits for those children; and

Exclusions

  • any things that you definitely would not want an attorney to do with your money or property if you were incapacitated (such as sell your home if funds were needed for your care);
  • if there is any person that you definitely would not want to have benefit from your estate

 

If you would like assistance regarding Wills, EPOAS or estate planning or you have further questions then please contact our Alicia Schubert on 3711 2709 or send us an email.

Death, Incapacity and What You Can Control about the Uncontrollable

The new financial year and inevitable pedantic drudgery of having to gather all your financial information together to complete a tax return often also serves as an uncomfortable reminder of other personal estate planning tasks that have not been attended to at all or have not been reviewed for far too long.

What in particular are we referring to? Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney!
Does the mere mention of a Will and EPOA have you feeling like a dog that has found itself trapped in a visit to the vet, or alternatively like you have the world’s most boring assignment that you have to do but are trying to avoid??
Many people do not seriously consider doing a Will or Enduring Power of Attorney unless they actually sense the spectre of:
 a. actual possible death or incapacity; or
b. evil fractious greedy people/ ex-partner claiming their estate.
The above approach is problematic because firstly people may be left with no arrangements in place to manage their affairs and provide for family if an unexpected sudden event leaves them incapacitated or dead, and secondly because it is often stressful and difficult to make decisions regarding the terms of your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney when the situation is urgent because of serious illness, impending travel, or panic that your financial assets will be feasted upon by people you essentially regard as white-anting parasites.
People often avoid doing Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney because it is uncomfortable and confronting to think about death or serious injury/incapacity happening to themselves or their loved ones.
In actual fact, Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney are about empowering you to determine:
  1. who will be able to deal with your assets and liabilities in the event that you can’t;
  2. who will benefit from your assets and liabilities; and
  3. how your assets and liabilities must be managed and used.
Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney are about exercising freedom of choice and the ability to determine how your assets and income can be used. They are as important as arranging sufficient insurance cover for yourself and your family – how useful is the insurance payout if you have no control over who will eventually benefit from the proceeds and how they can be used?
If you don’t have a Will and Enduring Power of Attorney then this is the situation you and your family could face.
A well planned Will and Enduring Power of Attorney are vital pieces of armoury for the lives of you and your family – if you have not got a Will or EPOA or have not reviewed your Will or EPOA for a few years then make the time now to get these jobs sorted.
An experienced solicitor will be able to advise you on the many options available regarding how to set up your Will and EPOA to best achieve your aims and reduce the risks of claims against your estate, and we generally find that most Wills and EPOAS can be drafted and finalised over a maximum to two appointments. Also, the professional fees for our firm and most other firms to draft Wills and EPOAS are fixed fee so not only will getting these planning tools sorted NOT take a great amount of your time but also they are affordable.
Contact us today to find out more about the best options for your Will and EPOA and protecting your family today.