Once simply planning for your demise and getting your affairs in order, Estate Planning has become a vehicle for preserving your assets, ensuring your beneficiaries receive that which you intended rather than the tax man and assure that your legacy remains intact.
It is now so much more than simply the planning and documentation of your wishes to ensure the distribution of all assets after your death.
As two trends emerged in the late 20th Century - increase in personal law claims and the significant extension of life expectancies - the definition of estate planning has now come to encompass wealth protection and transfer, health issues, income and disability insurance and the appointing of trusted people to manage your legal, financial and lifestyle affairs during any period of your life or incapacity.
Done properly it is a process of investigation, analysis, application of strategies, documentation and then continuous review. Estate Planning if done thoroughly and with the help of experienced financial and legal advisers can help eliminate the possibility of things going wrong.
Five Reasons To Have An Estate Plan
1. Protect your existing assets while you're alive
Your estate plan looks at the risks to your wealth if someone were to institute legal action against you while you are alive.
While it is not always possible or practical for taxation or legal reasons to put all your wealth out of the reach of creditors etc this plan assesses the risks and contains comments and strategies that will help you structure and organise your affairs if necessary to reduce the chances of losing your wealth as a result of legal claims brought against you.
2. Protect your & your family's future financial security against bankruptcy, divorce, illness, disability & death
If your future wealth creation and/or the financial security of your family is dependant on continuing in employment and/or ongoing good heath etc it is vital to look at whether your family is adequately protected against the financial impact of sickness, disability and death of the family bread winner(s).
Your estate plan considers what the impact on your wealth situation would be if the family bread winner were to suffer injury, incapacity or premature death and where appropriate makes recommendations on the type and nature of insurance cover necessary to ensure that you and your family is fully protected against these risks.
3. Protect your business interests
Your estate plan examines and considers whether the current arrangements in place are sufficient or appropriate in achieving the right outcome for you and your family if the operation of your business was affected by the retirement, incapacity, disability, bankruptcy, divorce or death of any of the business.
4. Appoint someone to manage your financial, medical and lifestyle affairs
Your estate plan looks at whether you have appropriate legal documentation in place Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardian - formally nominating people you trust to deal with your financial and medical affairs if you were to succumb to illness or incapacity in the future.
The plan recommends the steps you need to take to ensure that trusted persons are properly appointed to safeguard your wealth and attend to your financial, medical and lifestyle affairs during any period of illness or incapacity.
5. Your Will; keeping your wealth in the familyYour estate plan:
- Explains the actions you need to take (and avoid) to ensure that all your wealth is transferred efficiently to your nominated beneficiaries
- Explains the steps you can take to reduce the chance of disputes and challenges to your Will
- Recommends the steps that you need to take to ensure that your non estate assets (jointly held assets, insurance proceeds, superannuation and assets held in trust and companies) are dealt with in a way which reflects your requirements
- Explains the significant advantages that come with the use of modern Wills and estate planning strategies - in particular how the use of testamentary trust structures in your Will can potentially protect your beneficiaries from creditors and family law claims as well as offering access to the potential for considerable income and capital gains tax savings through income splitting