One step beyond retirement planning, estate planning is about what happens to your assets, such as your home, investments, super and insurance, and how to safeguard them after you pass away.
WHAT IS IT?
What is estate planning?
Most people think of a will when they hear the words estate planning, but it’s a lot more than that. At the heart of estate planning is certainty—for yourself and your loved ones. Certainty that you have passed the control and ownership of your assets and affairs to the people who you think should have it.
Moneysmart defines an estate as “All of a person's assets, whether real property or personal property, and their liabilities or debts.”
Estate planning is about having a plan to distribute your assets and affairs when you die, minimising family conflicts, as well as making sure that these assets are protected from events like a bankruptcy. Additionally, it takes into consideration not only assets you own such as property and shares, but also assets owned jointly such as business interests and life insurance.
It includes documents such as:
- a will,
- a binding nomination or a non-binding/preferred nomination , or a reversionary pension1 nomination,
- directions on how to pay any life insurance held outside super,
- directions on who manages inherited money (especially useful if the beneficiaries are children or have a disability that may prevent them from responsibly managing their inheritance),
- power of attorney and guardianship, and
- directions on what to do for your end-of-life care.
An estate plan also makes you think carefully about what you leave to which individual under what arrangement.
For instance, leaving an inheritance to an individual receiving government benefits may not always be the best idea, as it could result in them losing the benefits altogether. In this case, you may want to consider setting up a special disability trust. Another example is to think about the tax implications of an inheritance on a beneficiary.
Want to learn more about estate planning?
You may want to start with a clear understanding about your assets, affairs, liabilities and debts. Then think about who you’d like to see benefit from an inheritance from you, how much/what you want each party to inherit and who would make sure your wishes are carried out.
Estate planning is generally seen to be a team effort, between the financial adviser who makes sure the plan is funded properly, the accountant who looks at the tax implications and the estate lawyer who draws up the documentation.
Forms and fact sheets
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1 A reversionary pension automatically becomes payable to another person (called the ‘reversionary beneficiary’) upon your death. You can only choose one reversionary beneficiary, and they must meet the definition of Dependant at the time of your death. Generally, a reversionary beneficiary will be your spouse. The reversionary beneficiary will be able to elect to withdraw the Pension Account balance as a lump sum or continue to receive a regular pension.