What is Estate Planning?

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Every person at their death owns a bundle of assets generally made up of goods, real estate and investments such as a car, a home, furniture and bank accounts, shares and managed funds. These assets form the Estate of the deceased person. Funds may also be payable to the Estate from insurance policies or superannuation. All of these assets must be brought into the Estate which is administered by first paying the deceased’s funeral, testamentary and administrative expenses, debts and liabilities and secondly by distributing the balance as directed by the deceased in his or her will. It is important to make decisions about what will happen to your Estate when you die no matter what age you are now.
There may be many issues to consider. The instructions you provide should clearly state whom you wish to benefit, the extent of that benefit and when it is to be received. Consideration should be given to dependents and entitled persons, and the protection of funds for children and financially risky beneficiaries. Estate planning in its simplest form requires the drafting of a Will. However, a Will is merely one weapon in the armoury of an estate planning professional.

Why estate planning is so important

Proper estate planning can be complex. By relying on a lawyer to assist with the management and distribution of your assets, you obtain the information you need to make good decisions, you get clear answers to your questions, and you receive support for the most important tangible assets in your life. The following issues arise:

  • Determination of testamentary goals and vision
  • Deciding on whom to appoint as an Executor of your will
  • Identification of beneficiaries and risk profile of beneficiaries
  • Preparation of your Last Will and Testament
  • Preparation of trusts as necessary
  • Contemplation of the possible benefits of insurance
  • How to deal with proceeds of superannuation which is not, without direction, an asset of the Estate
  • Succession issues with respect to any business
  • Understanding the role of an attorney under a Power of Attorney and whether one should be appointed

Estate planning is important if you care about what happens to your assets. If you are 35-45 years of age, the time is now. The estate planning decisions you make will affect those closest to you—your family! Family Future is an informative thoughtful beginning for your estate planning needs in Australia. Here you can learn more about why estate planning is important and what can happen if you do not take any action before you die.

Some of the details in effective estate planning

By focusing on the areas relevant to your circumstances, a lawyer can help you put in place an effective estate plan. These areas may include but are not limited to:

  • Assistance in managing taxes, court costs, and legal fees
  • Assistance with the transfer of your business at retirement, in the case of disability, or upon death
  • Deciding on someone to manage your inheritance
  • Decisions for loved ones who are less responsible, or those who need protection in the case of creditors, divorce, or family interventions
  • Directives for your care if you become disabled
  • Disability income insurance in the case you cannot work based on an illness or injury
  • Guidance regarding existing trusts, taxes, and superannuation • Instructions for passing on your valuables
  • Life insurance for your family in the case of death
  • Long-term care insurance to assist you in the case of an extended illness or injury
  • Naming of a guardian for minor children
  • Providing for family members with special needs

If you are working with a lawyer, ensure the firm you have chosen to assist you include these services at a minimum. At Owen Hodge Lawyers, you will establish an important long-term relationship for your estate planning process, since your family situation, financial portfolio, and the law frequently change. The right advice can go a long way toward securing the future of your estate.

Important documents in your estate planning process

An estate plan usually begins with the creation of some important documents, namely a will or living trust. A will is a legal document that is established to set forth your intentions regarding how your assets and liabilities will be distributed when you die. At a minimum, a will: 1) appoints an Executor to carry out the directions set forth in your will, 2) nominates a guardian of your children (if needed), 3) expresses your wishes for cremation and burial and 4) provides how your estate is to be distributed. By creating a will, you ensure assets and possessions are distributed to those you care about. A will provides you with the opportunity to set up trusts for children, leave specific gifts or money to charity, and to appoint those you trust to administer your estate after you die.

The risks of not planning the future of your estate

Not planning for the future of your estate could mean a lot of complications, and many of them could be costly—to someone in your family. If you die, and you have not made an effective will, those who are entitled to your estate under the Succession Act may not be those whom you wish to benefit. Not only that, your family may be left with confusion, expenses, and legal issues at a time when they may also be mourning a loss. Here are some additional concerns:

  • Estates without a will may cause great hardship for family members as they attempt to sort through the decisions that must be made, since you have no estate planning in place.
  • If you do not have a will and you die, the court will appoint an administrator. It can takes months to resolve, and your dependents may not be awarded anything from your estate. The court will control inheritance from your estate.
  • If you become disabled so that you are not legally competent to conduct your business affairs and you have not appointed an attorney under an enduring power of attorney only a court appointed guardian could sign documents for you. The court will decide how to use your assets for your care. It can be come a costly, public affair.

Leaving your estate planning in the good hands of an estate planning lawyer far outweighs doing nothing. Get involved now and make matters easy for your family in the future. Decide on your executor, decide on your beneficiaries and see a lawyer. It will give you peace of mind.

Contact Owen Hodge Lawyers on 1800 770 780, and get started on your estate planning process while you are young.

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