We all want for our nearest and dearest to not be faced with unnecessary administrative challenges when dealing with our estate after we die – that is, that everything is straightforward, and the least amount of time or legal costs are involved in the process of winding up the estate.
So we thought we could put together some tips on what you can do NOW to ensure this happens:
Make your wishes clear
First things first – ensure you prepare a valid Will and Enduring Power of Attorney.
A validly prepared and executed Will ensures you have a say on who you want to manage your estate, and importantly, who will benefit from your estate after you pass away.
If you don’t leave a Will, everything you own will be distributed among your family according to the law of the state you are living in when you die. You get no say as to who shares your assets.
Read More: For more reasons on why a Will is important
There is rarely a situation where a Will kit is suitable. For the dangers and pitfalls of using a Will kit, read our blog on the subject
Many know what a Will is, but not so much an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA).
An EPOA is a legal document which allows you to nominate someone to be your decision-maker when you can’t make decisions on your own. This may be due to an accident, or health problems. The person appointed is called your ‘Attorney’ and should be someone you trust to made decisions on your behalf. It is a powerful document, and should be prepared by a legal practitioner on your instructions.
Know what your assets are – the devil is in the detail
You might know exactly where you put that very important document in that very secure location – with lists of all your bank accounts, house titles, superannuation documents, your original Will…
But does your partner know where it is? Does your executor know where it is?
Ensure you keep these details either in a clearly labelled folder, or have a written list of all the details of your assets easily accessible for your Executor to refer to when they need to manage your estate and wind it down.
You can also keep an updated list with your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney at the solicitor’s office for ease of reference. Most solicitors, including our firm, do not charge a fee for the storage of important original documents.
Getting your affairs in Order
We cannot emphasise this too much – you should get your affairs in order early. It is not worth putting off.
Often times it is this very issue issue that people keep pushing to the bottom of the pile and the back of their mind that may cause the most heartache, hassle, and cost for your executor and your family.
Some examples of things you should be keeping in mind are:
Blended family situations
Families come in all shapes and sizes. And that’s not a bad thing!
If you have property that is held as joint tenants you need to understand that this will pass automatically to the surviving joint tenant, regardless of what you say in your Will. If this is what you want to happen, great!
But if it isn’t, and you do not intend for that property or that bank account or those shares to pass to the other joint tenant (for example, if that person is now an ex-partner or a step-parent to your children) then you should seek legal advice.
Depending on where your superannuation is held, you may be able to clarify and make a binding nomination on who you wish your superannuation to go to.
There are strict rules regarding who can receive superannuation. If you have questions about superannuation, you should get in contact with us.
After the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia, there are still gaps in the system where we have found that same-sex couples are treated differently just by virtue of the time frame in which their marriage became legal.
Communicate with your family
Lastly, it is very important that you speak openly about your end-of-life wishes, funeral arrangements, organ donation and the like with your family. If they have information on what you wish to do, it will make the process smoother in the end.
It may be a difficult conversation, but as you would have gathered in reading this article, these conversations and steps should be had early on so that you make informed decisions about your estate planning, and for your family to understand what your wishes are so they can be effected as you intended. Tackling issues early and investing in having your estate planning done right may also mean that you can avoid family provision claims on your estate later on, which in turn will allow your estate to avoid the legal cost and stresses of defending such a claim.
If you need assistance with your estate planning, our specialist Wills and Estates Team is only a phone call or email away on (02) 6181 2050 and firstname.lastname@example.org.