Estate planning ... its not just about wills

Estate Planning concerns controlling what will happen with your assets when you die, or if you become mentally incapable of looking after you own affairs.  Generally the complexity of your estate planning needs increases as your personal circumstances and financial affairs become more complex.

Unfortunately, many people think about Estate Planning in terms of death and wills; sometimes this consideration is extended to powers of attorney.  However while a properly prepared will is an essential part of an effective estate plan, Estate Planning is more than “just wills” and it certainly is not something to leave until you die: a good estate plan will also take into account your superannuation and powers of attorney as well as assets held solely in your name or jointly with others, or assets held in private companies or trusts. It should include careful planning and documentation of your wishes to ensure the right assets are transferred to the right hands at the right time – sometimes before death and sometimes outside of the matters dealt with in a will.

We work with our clients to help them:

  • Review and protect – if necessary with insurance - existing and future assets.
  • Consider your beneficiaries and how they should be placed financially on your death; and
  • Review different methods of transferring assets and consider issues such as structure, taxation, timing and costs versus benefits.

Generally we work very closely with taxation and/or legal advisers to ensure your existing and future needs and objectives are achieved.  We believe that estate planning is one area where you need to be particularly wary of any “expert” that tells you they know everything and you do not need to consult other advisers.

While there are now many “do-it-yourself” estate planning services, including some which are internet based and will kits available from various retail outlets, we do not recommend these for our clients.  For people with very simple needs there may be situations where using one of these services is better than nothing; however even people with “simple needs” may find that these DIY arrangements may not suite their needs particularly if the result is not what they intended.  Wills also have very particular execution requirements which if not done properly can result in the will being modified or discarded by a court if challenged.  

Similar considerations apply to Powers of Attorney – these documents are very powerful and if incorrectly executed or prepared without full understanding of the consequences, you may not achieve your objectives.

For some insights into the difficulties poorly executed estate planning can create this article from Forbes Magazine provides some interesting examples of how even people who should know better get things wrong; this article about the estate of the late Peter Brock ("Bathurst Car Race legend") shows even "Australian greats" get things wrong - no one, except possibly the legal profession, benefits from these situations which are so easy and relatively inexpensive to avoid.

Contact us now to discuss and review your estate planning needs.