Regardless of your personal circumstances, estate planning is important because it helps to ensure you are looked after during your lifetime according to your wishes and that upon your death your assets will be managed and transferred according to your wishes to the people you wish to benefit.
In the event of your death, careful consideration needs to be given to what you have, who you want to give it to, their personal needs and circumstances, potential claims, who is an appropriate executor and trustee, and most importantly what you want to achieve with the transfer of your wealth. By having a plan in place, your wishes will be clearly articulated in the documentation.
Once you know what you want to happen upon your death, you need to ensure that it is reflected in your documents, the most important of which is your Will. If you die without having a legally valid Will, it can create added stress, and expense, for your family and friends at an already difficult time.
The same difficulties arise if you lose capacity and don’t have the appropriate attorney and guardianship documents in place.
Estate planning gives you peace of mind that your affairs will be handled exactly as you would like if you become incapacitated or when you die.
Amongst other benefits, effective estate planning also allows you to:
Everyone can benefit from having an effective estate plan in place; your affairs do not need to be highly complex. However, if you have complex family or personal relationships (multiple marriages, children from different marriages or vulnerable family members for example) or significant assets (such as multiple properties, business ownership, or assets in a family trust or family company) it is even more important to seek professional estate planning advice.
A Will is the cornerstone of an estate plan. It is a legal document that specifies how you would like your assets managed and distributed once you are gone.
Having a valid and up-to-date Will is essential, especially if you have complex needs such as providing for a spouse, blended family or loved one with special needs.
Without a Will, you will die ‘intestate’ and your assets will be distributed according to a strict government formula, which varies from state to state, may be complex and time‑consuming, and may not be in line with your wishes.
Having a Will is certainly a good place to start, but it’s just the beginning! A comprehensive estate plan involves so much more.
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to nominate someone you trust to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
A popular misconception is that a person’s partner can make financial decisions for them and manage their assets. However, unless a formal power of attorney has been granted, these decisions may revert to a government agency instead. Having a power of attorney in place means you can nominate the person you want to make the decisions, it protects your interests.
Depending on state and territory laws, as well as your circumstances, a power of attorney can operate in different ways. A general power of attorney allows someone to make financial decisions on your behalf for a limited time only (for example, if you are away on holiday or for a particular purpose). An enduring power of attorney is the most common form and empowers someone to make financial decisions on your behalf. Unlike a general power of attorney, it comes into force on a specific direction from you or when you lack mental capacity and remains in place following your loss of capacity.
A power of attorney will give you peace of mind that someone you trust will manage your financial and legal affairs on your behalf.
An Enduring Guardian document allows you to appoint someone to make medical and health care decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
They can include medical treatments that you do or do not wish to have, such as life support, or arrangements such as whether or not you wish to live in a nursing home. You can be very specific about your wishes for future care and include directions such as ‘no chemotherapy’, ‘I wish to die at home, rather than in care’ or ‘no resuscitation’, or you may be happy to leave the decisions to your substitute decision-makers.
Our estate planning lawyers can work with you to tailor an estate plan to your individual circumstance. Don’t leave it to chance – have a plan in place and make sure your wealth is managed and distributed according to your wishes.