November 17, 2015 taxitime

Where there’s a Will, there’s an Estate Plan – Well, there should be

Let’s face it: no-one likes to think of death, especially their own. It’s not exactly a great conversation starter, is it? This might explain why so many people end up “dying Intestate” which means they die without a will and, as a consequence, have their assets distributed according to State law.

Sadly, the way State law distributes a deceased person’s assets among family members can often be a lot different to the way a deceased person wanted their assets distributed.

It can create a lot of unnecessary stress and conflict within a family.

So unless you’re living as a hermit with no contact or relationships with others, and you also don’t have a single possession to your name, you need to not only think about preparing a will, but do something about it.

And you need more than just a will. You need an estate plan.

Why having a will is not enough

If you have a will in place, you may not think you even need an estate plan. After all, your will spells out your “Who gets what” instructions regarding your estate, right?

Unfortunately, the estate you’ve specified in your will may not include all of your assets. By law, your will doesn’t include assets such as:

  • jointly-held property
  • superannuation
  • proceeds of life insurance policies
  • assets held in trust
  • company assets.

Steve Wildes, a Partner here at Paris Financial advises all of his clients “To enable you to control what happens to all of these assets, you must have an estate plan in place”.

6 more reasons to have an estate plan

A well-written estate plan can do more than just distribute all of your assets the way you want. It can also help:

  1. Your beneficiaries (i.e. your loved ones) to reduce (if not eliminate) tax on the income generated when they receive their inheritance, and every year thereafter
  2. Protect your beneficiaries’ inheritance from unfortunate events such as divorce and bankruptcy
  3. Minimise or even avoid the death benefits tax when distributing your superannuation benefits
  4. Guard against a beneficiary wasting their inheritance because of their spending habits, mental health, drug addictions, gambling or other vulnerabilities
  5. Make capital gains tax savings on the assets distributed through your estate
  6. Ensure your assets are passed to your preferred beneficiaries rather than, say, an in-law or former spouse.

Who should help you create your estate plan?

While an estate plan is a legal document, its creation shouldn’t be left solely to your solicitor. You need someone who knows about you, your family and your financial situation.

And the person who generally knows the most about that is your accountant or financial planner.

However, while they may know all about your finances, they may not have the legal qualifications needed to create a watertight estate plan. So you actually need your accountant or financial planner and a solicitor.

According to Darren Foster, Senior Financial Advisor at Paris Financial “As a financial planner, my main focus is to ensure the estate plan is properly funded, and the effected individuals hold the correct levels and types of insurance. The accountant’s role in estate planning is to ensure a client’s individual situation is structured correctly from a tax perspective and the solicitor is to ensure all the correct documents are drawn up and executed.”

Avoid leaving a trail of chaos behind you

Whether or not you have an active will in place, without an estate plan there’s no telling who your assets may end up with. Avoid creating stress and conflict for your loved ones, and give yourself the peace of mind in the here-and-now that your affairs are well in order. To start sorting out your estate planning, contact Steve Wildes or Darren Foster.

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