If you pass away without a will, your wealth will be distributed in line with the state government formula that applies in your state/territory, known as intestacy. This means your assets may be distributed against your wishes and could incur higher tax liabilities.
Having a will is therefore important in estate planning as it defines who you nominate to receive your wealth. It can also include who you choose to look after your children if they’re under the age of 18, and instructions about your funeral.
Estate laws are complex so taking a do-it-yourself approach to your will may cause you more stress than you need. Consider having it professionally drafted by a solicitor, a private trustee or the Public Trustee for your state or territory.
Key events that happen to you may trigger a review of your will. For instance, if you dispose of or buy new assets, you may want to consider whether it’s worth amending your will to reflect this.
An important part of estate planning is the nomination of an executor. This person is responsible for distributing your wealth among your beneficiaries and paying off any debts when you pass.
You may choose to name a family member as your executor, although appointing a third party such as your solicitor, accountant or a public trustee may ease the burden on your family members. However, there is a cost associated with this.
In many cases life insurance forms an important part of estate planning as it provides a financial safety net which your family can use to, pay for funeral expenses, enable the payout of large debt such as a mortgage or buy out a business partnership for instance.
Many super funds offer life insurance which can be adjusted according to your needs. If you hold life insurance outside of your super, a lump sum will be paid to any nominated beneficiaries upon your passing.
Finding ways to manage your tax helps to ensure your wealth is protected, as well as being, a key part of estate planning.
Trusts can help manage your tax especially when it comes to capital gains and income tax.
A good example of this is a testamentary trust, which in essence, passes on control of your assets rather than the assets themselves.1
Instead of passing assets directly to a beneficiary, they are passed into a trust which a chosen beneficiary/s is in control of. This does not take place until your death.
Your spouse, for instance, could be the principal beneficiary initially, with your children and grandchildren as future beneficiaries when they reach 18 years of age.
But like everything, there are some disadvantages with testamentary trusts to keep in mind. For instance, there are specific requirements you need to meet and if you decide to appoint a professional as a trustee, you’ll have to cover fees for this service.
1. Australian Taxation Office: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/Privately-owned-and-wealthy-groups/Tax-governance/Estate-planning/
The article was prepared by BT Financial Advice (BTFA). BTFA is a division of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 & Australian Credit Licence 233714 (Westpac). This information is current as at 26 February 2019.
This information does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to these factors before acting on it. This information provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such. This information may contain material provided by third parties derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material. Any tax considerations outlined in this publication are general statements, based on an interpretation of the current tax law, and do not constitute tax advice. The tax implications of super investments can impact individual situations differently and you should seek specific tax advice from a registered tax agent or registered tax (financial) adviser.