Tag Archives: will

Do you have a valid will?

Creating a valid will is one of the most important things you can do to protect your loved ones.

Here we explain how to go about it.

1. Seek legal advice

While DIY will kits can seem like an easy and inexpensive way to make a will, they can be fraught with pitfalls.

Your affairs are probably more complex than you think – your family home, other properties, business assets, superannuation, investments and personal belongings.  You may be surprised to learn that not all assets are covered as standard in a Will and stay outside of your estate.  Having a properly drawn up will helps to determine who gets what and can save your family time and stress when you are gone.  And not all assets are automatically included in your estate and may need separate provision made to ensure their distribution.

Your lawyer or financial planner will also be able to provide insights into how to best structure your will, both to protect assets and to minimise tax. Examples include setting up a testamentary trust to provide for minors or protecting your estate from creditors.

2. Safeguard your children’s future

Probably one of the most important reasons to make a will is to ensure any dependent children are well cared for should the worst happen.

Sydney wills, probate and estate specialist, Graeme Heckenburg of Heckenberg Lawyers, says generally parents should make separate rather than joint wills, as they are likely to die at different times.

Heckenburg says a will should also appoint a guardian to take care of the day to day living and housing arrangements for the children and a trustee to execute the will and make any financial decisions. This can be one person or two different people.

“If you don’t appoint a guardian and there are young children, ultimately the decision will be made by the Guardianship Tribunal [in NSW]. If the guardianship is contested, the matter could even end up in the Supreme Court,” he says.

If you have adult children, you also need to consider their circumstances.  If they’re caught up in a divorce or bankruptcy issues, any inheritance can form part of their assets, which may not be what you wish.

Vulnerable adult children also need to be considered as receiving a large lump sum may not be in their best interests either.

3. Keep your will updated

Once you have made a will, don’t leave it in a drawer gathering dust.

Circumstances change over time, and often quickly, so ensure your will reflects your current situation, particularly if your spouse has died, you have married, re-married or divorced or you have become a parent or step-parent.

We’d love to help or put in touch with our legal experts who can assist with your estate planning.

Financial Things to do Before You Die

While it might not be as exciting a list as Bucket List inclusions like:

1. Head to Base Camp;

2. Dive the Great Barrier Reef;

3. Have a Champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower;

4. Stay in a yurt in Mongolia;

5. or sleep in an Igloo under the Northern Lights… it’s definitely a very loving legacy to leave behind for those you care about.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to assist in unraveling affairs of those who instead leave behind a financial mess for their family to navigate.  On top of grief, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when your financial affairs have not been left ‘in order.’  I know I’ve covered this issue before, but it’s so important to have finalised.

And I understand, it’s not a popular question to ponder and is likely hard to imagine, but what if something were to happen to you? Would your loved ones be taken care of or would they face a tough financial future?  Do they know what your wishes are?  Do you even have your important documents sorted?

The greatest gift you can leave your family and loved ones, is having your affairs sorted out before you go.  Please don’t think of this as something morbid… it might seem like I’m backing up the hearse and asking you to smell the roses here… but this isn’t about you, I promise.

If you have made plans, do your loved ones know where to find them? Would they know what assets you have, what insurance policies are in place or how to access your superannuation or life insurance?  Have they met your trusted advisers and know who to get in touch with if something were to happen?  Have you kept them in touch with what your wishes are?

Here are some simple steps you can take to protect the important people in your life:

  • Consolidate your assets and sort your bank accounts out
  • Ensure your life insurance is adequate based on your current circumstances
  • Make sure beneficiaries have been nominated (where possible) on your superannuation and insurance policies
  • Chat with your partner about what you’d like to have happen in the event of the unexpected
  • Ensure your Will is current – circumstances can change quickly!
  • Have your arranged for an Enduring Power of Attorney or completed an Advanced Health Directive?
  • Make sure those who need to know are aware of where your important documents are stored

Not everything will pass through your estate, so it’s wise to ensure you understand what forms estate assets and what stays outside.

Work through the list steadily and once it’s done, make sure it’s reviewed regularly.  Your loved ones will be glad you did.

Get it Together!

There’s so many things that fall into the too hard basket!  Life is busy and there’s so many other priorities!  Just making it through each day and falling into bed at night is a good day’s work for a lot of people.

But, when a tragedy befalls someone near and dear to us, we often see the fallout when people don’t have their sh*t together.  I’m often approached for insurances or to update beneficiaries of a super fund prompted by the life events that happened to ‘someone else.’

So what are the main areas to ‘get on top of’ when it’s time to get your act together?

Here’s my top tips!

  • Make sure your Will is current and reflects your wishes
  • Ensure you have appointed Powers of Attorney – Enduring and Medical
  • Make sure beneficiaries are nominated on Superannuation & Insurance Policies
  • Consolidate those Superannuation funds that you have lying around – or keep them if they have vital insurances
  • Ensure assets are owned correctly and your bank accounts are in order
  • Check over your Insurance Policies – especially Life, TPD, Trauma and Income Protection – are the levels of cover enough?
  • Bring the people who’ll be involved in sorting out your Estate up to date with your wishes
  • Ensure tax returns are up to date and completed annually – personally and for your business entities
  • If you have a partner or family, make them aware of what you’d like to happen
  • Let a couple of different people know where your important documents are stored in the event of the unexpected

Life changes.  Partners can come and go, children grow up and live their own lives, grandchildren arrive and significant people can waltz in and out of our lives.  It may be hassle to work through the list, and yes, some of it may be costly, but if you truly love those you’re leaving behind, one of the best gifts you can leave, is to have your sh*t together.

You really don’t want the crazy ex to benefit from your estate when your gorgeous new partner will be left destitute because you didn’t take the time to update your paperwork!

So, set a date to every year, ensure everything is just how you want it.  It could be on a birthday, an anniversary or at the turn of the calendar or financial year.  Get each area finalised then run an annual check to make sure they still reflect what you’d like to happen when you’re not there to arrange it.

I’ll bet there’s a few people who’ll be very thankful you did.