The Importance of Estate Planning

businessman writing on a formDrawing up or revising a will is not something most people like to think about, however it is an important part of life no matter what your age – especially if you have a variety of assets and/or investments.

In Australia, will and estates fall under two areas of law known as succession law and probate, and in most cases, they’re designed to ensure that the final wishes of a deceased person are fulfilled wherever possible. Without a will however, this can be an expensive, time consuming and often distressing process for family and loved ones.

Contrary to popular belief, if a person dies without a will (known as ‘dying intestate’) their estate does not automatically get transferred to the government.

Instead, it is administered and distributed (usually to family members) according to a specific set of criteria. This criteria however, doesn’t necessarily reflect the deceased’s final wishes. That is why estate planning and having a valid will are important.

We, at The Farm Protectors believe that leaving a clear, unambiguous will, and a list of all your important documents (e.g. Land Titles, share certificates, superannuation details etc.) will make it much easier for your executor to carry out their duties.

Estate planning should also include setting out your wishes in the event you are unable to make decisions about your assets or your health.

This could include appointing:

  • A general power of attorney: set for a specific period of time when you’re unable to make financial or legal decisions (e.g. you’re off taking that world trip you always promised yourselves)
  • An enduring power of attorney: takes affect only if and when you become incapable of making legal and financial decisions for yourself
  • Medical power of attorney: can make medical decisions (but not legal or financial decisions) about you if you’re unable or incapable of doing so.

For peace of mind – for both you and your nominated decision-maker – it’s wise to draw up directives, clearly stating how you wish decisions to be made. Anticipatory directives, Advance Healthcare Directives and ‘Living wills’ clearly set out medical treatment you want or don’t want, if you’re unable to make those decisions yourself. They can be general or very specific, detailing the type of care or medication you’re willing to receive or deny if you’re unable to make those intentions known personally, at the time.

Estate planning checklist

To make things easier for your executor and beneficiaries we at The Farm Protectors will assist you in considering and listing all the tasks that your executor will need to manage, when paying off debts and distributing your will.

Your will: firstly make sure you have one, and you tell your executor where it is

Debts: list details of personal loans, credit cards, store cards and mortgages. These will need to be paid out of your estate before it’s distributed to your beneficiaries

Assets: these can be very diverse and wide-spread, so ensure you include details (and locations) of:

  • Property deeds
  • Share certificates
  • Superannuation funds
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Collectables
  • Bonds and other tradable investments
  • Motor vehicles, boats etc.
  • Cash
  • Personal assets such as jewellery etc.
  • Google Accounts or ITunes account  where you may have stored your photos
  • Contact details of all beneficiaries
  • Professional advisors: list the contact details of your Accountant, Lawyers, stock brokers and Bankers
  • Insurance details: life policies including any death and permanent disability cover held with your superannuation fund
  • Funeral arrangements: especially if you have arranged a pre-paid funeral plan