Estate planning 101: How to get your affairs in order
11 April 2023
Estate planning is an important part of taking control of your future and looking after the people you love. At its most basic, it ensures that your property is distributed according to your wishes if something happens to you and facilitates the transition of your assets to your family. Having an estate plan can also help to minimise taxes on your estate, allowing you to take advantage of any gifts, trusts or other arrangement strategies.
With Baby Boomers expected to leave Millennials and Gen Z an estimated $224 billion in inheritances by 2050, it is critical that they have an estate plan that ensures the safe passage of assets to their intended recipients, alleviating a lot of stress for loved ones after death. Read on to learn what estate planning involves and how Findex can help you organise your affairs.
What is estate planning?
Put simply, it's the process of planning for the management and disposal of your assets and affairs after you pass away or become incapacitated. It also involves preparing for any legal or tax issues that may arise upon your death. This includes everything from drafting a Will to appointing an executor to setting up trusts to protect your assets for the benefit of your loved ones.
An estate plan considers the individual's unique financial situation, family circumstances, and legal requirements. It gives you the power to decide who will manage your finances, make decisions about your medical care, and attend to other personal matters that are important to you.
Estate planning in Australia is also subject to various legal requirements, including inheritance, taxation, and superannuation regulations. Working with a qualified financial adviser can help ensure your wishes are properly documented and legally binding.
Benefits of estate planning
The benefits of estate planning include the following:
Control over asset distribution: Estate planning allows you to dictate who gets what in the event of your death. It makes it easier for your family to divide your assets and property when the time comes, reducing the likelihood of expensive court cases or legal battles among family members. It’s worth noting though that it doesn't mean the Will can't or won’t be contested.
Tax efficiency: Using trusts and other estate planning strategies, you can minimise estate taxes and other levies owed after your death.
Protection of assets: Estate planning protects your assets from creditors, lawsuits, and other potential threats. The use of legal tools like trusts, can shield your assets from outside forces, ensuring they are passed on to intended beneficiaries.
Caring for loved ones: By setting up trusts or appointing guardians, you can provide for the ongoing care of minor children, elderly or disabled relatives, or other loved ones who may require special attention long after you're gone.
Peace of mind: Knowing that one's affairs are in order and your wishes will be carried out in the event of death or incapacity alleviates stress and anxiety for you and your loved ones.
What is involved in estate planning?
When it comes to estate planning, there are a few steps you should consider to ensure you're prepared.
Step 1: Identifying assets
Take stock of your assets and liabilities. This includes cash, bank accounts, real estate, investments, superannuation, businesses and debts. It gives you a clearer picture of what your estate consists of to determine how your property will be distributed upon your passing.
Step 2: Making a Will
A Will is an important legal document in the estate planning process. Making a valid Will is essential for recording wishes about how assets should be distributed after death. It also allows you to appoint an executor to manage the administration of your estate. They are responsible for carrying out the wishes in your Will.
Step 3: Considering powers of attorney
An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPoA) is a legal document a person can make that gives another person or organisation the legal authority to make decisions on their behalf. In the estate planning process, the enduring power of attorney comes in handy when one no longer has the capacity or ability to make these decisions themselves.
Step 4: Appointing an executor
An executor is somebody appointed by the testator (the person making the Will) to carry out the deceased's wishes in distributing any assets and winding up the deceased's estate. It's a good idea to appoint someone trustworthy and capable of handling such financial responsibilities, which can be quite complex.
Strategies for estate planning
Calculate your estate value. The value of your assets is determined by considering any property you own, investments, business interests, retirement accounts, and other assets. Taking stock of all your assets and liabilities to calculate your net worth is an effective strategy as it helps you plan for taxes and determine how you want your assets to be distributed.
Review your Will regularly. Regularly reviewing your Will ensures that it still reflects your wishes. This allows you to consider changes in your life, such as births, deaths, marriages, or divorces. You can change your Will through a codicil or by creating a new one altogether.
Consider life insurance. Life insurance policies are a source of tax-free income to your beneficiaries after your death. It can also be used to pay estate taxes and debts or provide your loved ones with financial support. Consider whether you need life insurance and how much coverage you need to provide for your loved ones. Then review your life insurance policy regularly to ensure the coverage is adequate for your needs.
Make investments. Investments can help you grow your wealth and provide for your beneficiaries. Some types of investments, like real estate, appreciate over time and provide a source of income. Consider working with a financial adviser to create an investment plan that aligns with your goals and risk tolerance.
Testamentary trusts. Instead of leaving assets directly to a beneficiary, they are transferred into what is called a testamentary trust and held on behalf of the beneficiaries. This is especially utilised if a beneficiary is ill or unable to manage their own affairs.
How Findex can help
Professional guidance is crucial for effective estate planning. This is where Findex comes in. As one of the largest and most trusted financial advisory networks in Australia, our qualified team of wealth management experts have the knowledge and experience to provide you with estate planning solutions, including:
Professional advice tailored to your specific financial goals, objectives and needs.
Personalised financial plans to help protect and maximise your wealth.
Investment services in various customised products to meet your unique financial requirements.
An estate plan is more than a legal document, it’s a detailed plan to protect your financial affairs and the legacy you leave behind. A reliable financial adviser will help you understand the benefits of an estate plan and the steps involved in the estate planning process. This enables you to develop effective wealth management strategies to ensure your estate planning is set up properly and is fully compliant.
At Findex, we can provide personalised advice on estate planning, personal insurance and retirement planning as well as business advisory and corporate finance. To get matched to an adviser most suited to your needs, submit this form today.
Disclaimer and Disclosure information.
What is estate planning?, Australian Unity, October 2019