Estate Planning

Why do I need an Estate Plan?

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

An Estate Plan is designed to ensure that the final wishes of a deceased person are fulfilled wherever possible.

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 his or her 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 trekking in the Himalayas)
  • an enduring power of attorney: takes effect 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.

The 19 point estate planning checklist

What do you want to happen when you pass away?

  1. Who should be notified?
  2. Who might be your executors – the people who will handle your estate and follow your Will?
  3. Who should look after your minor children (those under 18) if their other parent is unable to do so?
  4. Who should be the advisers that your executors go to for advice?
  5. Do you want to give specific assets or specific amounts to particular beneficiaries?
  6. Who do you want to give the remainder of your estate to?
  7. Do you want to establish one or more testamentary discretionary trusts to better protect your beneficiaries?
  8. What happens if your intended beneficiaries do not survive you?
  9. Do you need a memorandum of wishes?
  10. Organ donation and medical research
  11. Funeral arrangements and disposal of your body
  12. What arrangements do you want to make regarding your life online?

What do you want to happen if you become incapable?

  1. Do you want to appoint an enduring power of attorney?
  2. Do you want to limit that power of attorney so it can only be used if you become mentally incapable?
  3. Do you want to limit that power of attorney so it cannot be used to change your binding death benefit nomination in relation to your superannuation?
  4. Do you want to appoint an enduring guardian?
  5. Do you want to limit your guardian’s power so as to ensure you are kept at home for as long as possible?
  6. Do you want to have a Living Will?
  7. Who do you want to appoint someone as the surrogate decision maker in your Living Will?

Public trustees

Each state/territory has a trustee office to manage intestate estates or step in where an executor is unwilling or unable to carry out the duties. In most cases, the public trustee can also be appointed in a will, to act as the executor. Fees for their service are usually paid for out of the estate.