Common misconceptions about estate planning

An estate plan involves more than signing a Will and leaving it in a safe place. An effective estate plan requires consideration of several matters and ongoing review to ensure it reflects your testamentary wishes and covers unexpected events.

I have a Will – isn’t that an ‘estate plan’?

A Will is a great start to planning your estate, however a Will alone does not appoint a trusted person to look after your financial and property affairs when you are away or if you are incapacitated. Likewise, a Will cannot appoint a guardian to make health and lifestyle choices on your behalf if you are incapacitated, taking into consideration your morals and values.

Tip: Various legal documents form part of your overall estate plan. Think about what you would do if the unforeseen happened and you could no longer manage your affairs. Talk to you lawyer about the benefits of appointing an attorney or guardian to assist you if you are incapacitated.

Only the rich need an estate plan

This is certainly not the case. No matter what your financial status, an estate plan enables you to appoint a trusted person to administer your assets when you die, ensure your hard-earned property is left to beneficiaries chosen by you and not others, maximise the gifts and benefits you leave to your loved ones through appropriate taxation planning, and prepare for unexpected crisis (illness and incapacity) by appointing somebody you trust to deal with your affairs when you cannot.

Tip: Think about your current assets and the assets you aim to accumulate in the future – they soon add up. Think about who you would like to benefit from your estate and how you can maximise the value of your assets for your beneficiaries.

Superannuation is automatically dealt with in my Will

Many people assume their superannuation will be divided up in accordance with the wishes in their Will, but that is not necessarily the case. 

Death benefits, comprising the superannuation account balance and any life insurance payments, are paid to a ‘dependant’ (defined by legislation), as determined by the fund trustee or in accordance with a Binding Death Benefit Nomination (BDBN).

Tip: Review your superannuation and life policies to determine whether you have in place a valid and current BDBN. Talk to your lawyer about the formalities required to execute a BDBN and strategies to minimise adverse tax implications on the payment of your death benefits to your beneficiaries.

Tim Hayter, Principal, Mid West Lawyers

This information is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought for your particular circumstances.