Now That’s Good Estate Planning!

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A well-known man in England recently gained an inheritance. It is a pretty substantial one, too. According to Forbes Magazine, King Charles inherited approximately $US500 Million in assets from his Mum and is now responsible for managing assets worth $US42 Billion. That’s good estate planning!

Most of us will not be leaving anything like that to our loved ones. But that does not mean that we should not take care to make sure that our assets do what we want them to do after we pass. In fact, it is precisely because our loved ones will not end up as the King of England (or Australia) that we need to make sure our money does what it needs to do. Our loved ones will probably need our money when we are gone.

The simplest way to ensure our money goes where we want it to go is by making a Will. If you do not have a Will, you should talk to us immediately and we can put you in touch with the people you need to speak to. We can also help you work out what you want your Will to achieve.

If you already have a Will, it still pays to review things from time to time. This is because things change, which can mean that your Will no longer does what you want it to. In fact, some changes, such as a new marriage, can effectively cancel any pre-existing Will. A new marriage almost always means a new Will.

So does any material change in our circumstances. For example, if our assets rise to much higher levels, through something like an inheritance ourselves, or the sale of a business, or even just appreciation in asset prices, then elements or our Will can become outdated. That $10,000 you guaranteed for your disabled brother back in 1980 might not be as useful for him if you pass away tomorrow.

Wills are only one part of the estate planning process. This is because Wills do not always address all of our wealth. A Will, for example, may not be relevant to our superannuation assets. This is because, technically, money held in superannuation is not legally owned by us. The legal owner of the asset is the trustee of the super fund – we members are known as ‘beneficial owners.’ But members can usually make sure that the trustees do what they want by making a binding death benefit nomination to direct the trustees after a death. Nominations typically last for three years, so they too need to be updated at least that often – and more often if your situation changes.

Similarly, we might use a vehicle such as a company or a trust to hold wealth. Companies or trusts do not die when we do, so the assets within these vehicles are also often not subject to our Will. We need separate arrangements for assets such as these to be managed. This might include doing things like appointing adult children as directors of family trusts while we are still alive and can help them learn to manage these assets.

We might also own a business that needs a form of succession planning, especially in cases where the business might be co-owned by people that we are not related to. This makes for a different form of estate planning again. Basically, the more complex our affairs, the more detailed the planning needs to be.

The quick ascension of Charles to his new throne happened because Queen Elizabeth got the paperwork right. Our job is to help you get your affairs in order to make things as simple as possible for your inheritors. So, if your estate planning is due for a review, get in touch and let us help you make sure your wealth does what you want it to do when you don’t need it anymore.

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