Distributing your Assets
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is about wealth succession – a way to help protect the wealth you have built over your lifetime,so that it is distributed according to your wishes following your death. You spend a large part of your life working to earn money to look after yourself, to provide for your family and to save for the future. Given the focus that is placed on creating wealth while you are alive, it seems logical to want some control over what happens to these assets once you are gone. Estate planning is about giving you that control. Control to make sure that:
the people you care about are looked after once you are gone, and
your assets are passed to the people you want to receive them.
Who benefits from estate planning?
Estate planning is beneficial for everyone. The more complicated your personal and financial affairs, the more important it is to have an estate plan.
Planning for the future becomes more important at certain times in your life, such as; getting married, living with a partner, separating or getting divorced; having children, including step-children; moving house, interstate or overseas; buying real estate or other valuable assets; family separation involving other family members; buying, selling or operating a business; setting up a family trust or company; or if you have family members with special needs or children who are vulnerable.
What’s involved in estate planning?
There are three main tools that can help you with your succession planning.
1. A Will
2. Powers of Attorney
3. Superannuation nomination
Making a Will
A Will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets and possessions distributed upon your death.
It can cover a range of special requests including providing for children, guardianship or your charitable objectives.
What happens if you don’t have a Will?
Dying without a Will is called ‘dying intestate’. When this happens, the court will appoint an administrator and your assets will be distributed according to a strict formula. This formula may see your assets not be distributed in the best interest of your family and loved ones.
What should you consider when preparing a Will?
Who do you want to be your beneficiaries?
Who will you choose as the executor of your Will?
Do you have any specific bequests?
What assets need to be included?
What are the tax implication?
What should you update your Will?
Your Will should be reviewed and updated whenever there are major changes in your life, such as:
marriage, separation or divorce
birth of children
death of family members
significant changes to the value of your assets
significant changes to the way you own assets, such as the formation of a family trust or self-managed superannuation fund
entering a new business or change to existing business structures, or
What is not distributed through your Will?
Assets owned in joint names pass directly to the surviving owner.
Superannuation benefits are generally governed by the superannuation fund trustee. However, a binding nomination can be made to certain beneficiaries including your estate.
The payout from a life insurance policy where you have nominated a beneficiary to benefit directly from the policy.
A testamentary trust is established in a Will and results in the trustee looking after the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries. It is an effective estate planning tool because it allows the trustee to distribute income from the estate to the beneficiaries in a tax efficient manner.
Children under 18 who receive income from a testamentary trust are subject to adult tax rates, rather than minor penalty rates.
A testamentary trust can also protect assets from spendthrift or bankrupt beneficiaries who may be prone to misuse assets they inherit.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document allowing you to appoint someone to act on your behalf. When in force, the signature of the person you appoint as your Power of Attorney has the same legal force as your own.
While the rules relating to powers of attorney vary from state to state, there are different types of Powers of Attorney, each with a different purpose:
General Power of Attorney,
Enduring Power of Attorney,
Enduring Guardian Advanced Health Directive.
Your superannuation savings do not typically form part of the assets that are distributed via your Will. This is a crucial consideration for the succession of your wealth, because if structured correctly, your super savings can be received tax free when they are passed on to your beneficiaries. Correspondingly, if your preferences for your super savings are not structured correctly, the consequences for your savings can be damaging. Superannuation savings paid to someone other than your spouse, your minor child, or someone who is financially dependent on you, can be taxed up to 31.5 per cent.
What happens to your super when you die?
The trustee of your superannuation fund has the ultimate discretion about who to pay your superannuation savings to, unless you have a binding nomination.
What is a binding nomination?
A binding nomination gives you certainty about who will receive your super savings at the time of your death. Generally, it must be updated at least every three years, and witnessed by two adults not identified in your nomination.
How do you get started?
Estate planning is an important part of managing your financial affairs. It will ensure that your wishes are carried out once you are gone, and help to protect the financial future of your family.