Estate Planning

I’ve often thought that ‘life planning’ would be a much more appropriate label than ‘estate planning’; estate planning is [and should be] so much more than simply planning for your death.

Of course, planning for how your assets should be dealt with upon your death by preparing a Will is an important component of the plan, but it only one component of what should be much broader life planning – and that planning should begin as early as possible.

Estate planning extends well beyond Wills, to incorporate Powers of Attorney, Superannuation, business ownership, trust structures, tax planning and broader family arrangements, all of which may have no effect until you are unwell or pass away, but should all be part of your planning whilst you are fit and well and enjoying life.

Your estate planning should be front of mind during many of life’s big moments, including the following:

  • PURCHASING A PROPERTY // planning should include how the property is owned, whether that is in your sole name, joint names with another person, or in the name of a company or trust. Getting this right will determine who can receive an interest in the property should you pass away, and can also avoid unnecessary stamp duty, tax and legal expenses in transferring the property down the track;
  • GETTING MARRIED OR SEPARATING FROM YOUR SPOUSE PARTNER // the joy of getting married, or the difficulty of a relationship breakdown, both have an impact on your estate planning. Prior to the event, you should be reviewing any existing wills, powers of attorney, superannuation arrangements, business ownership structures and the ownership of your own assets;
  • HAVING CHILDREN, OR YOUR CHILDREN BECOMING YOUNG ADULTS // your children are the centre of your world, and should also be the centre of your estate plan, whether that is to provide for the care and provision of your minor children, or to benefit and protect your adult children for the challenges in their own lives;
  • STARTING A BUSINESS, OR PLANNING YOUR TRANSITION OUT OF A BUSINESS // both extremely exciting times, and both requiring significant planning to ensure smooth operation of the business and treatment of key people within it.

For bonus points, great estate/life planning will combine elements of legal advice and documents, financial advice and accounting advice, which is addressed in a cohesive, open and organised manner.

 

For further information regarding estate planning, please contact us to receive a FREE copy of our ‘7 Steps to Estate Planning Guide’, and look out for future dates for our ‘Estate of Mind’ seminar series at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/estate-of-mind-tickets-66157682409

 

Stefan Manche – Senior Associate Solicitor

LLB, BComm

What To Consider When Making Specific Gifts in Your Will

What to consider when making specific gifts in your Will

When preparing your Will there are a number of things to consider such as who to appoint as your Executor, the beneficiaries of your estate and whether you wish to leave any specific gifts to a particular family member or friend.

A ‘gift’ can be anything from a particular item of jewellery to a sum of money.  Below it will be discussed the matters that should be considered if you want to leave a gift under your Will.

Firstly, you cannot gift an item if you do not own them.  This situation can arise where a property is held under a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund or under a Trust.  Another situation to mention is when an item is owned jointly with another person.  In this case, the surviving owner will obtain the asset upon your passing.  Consequently, if you gift an item that you do not own, or is jointly owned, will be ineffective under your Will.

Secondly, it is important to update your Will to ensure that if the asset you have gifted still exists when you pass away.  We understand that life happens and that items and assets are sold or given away during your lifetime.  Therefore it is important to update your Will if you know that you no longer hold an asset.  However, if you have made a gift that is no longer in your possession, the direction in your Will would be ineffective and result in the recipient not receiving the gift.

Finally, if you wish to gift a particular asset or item under your Will, it is important to consider these items are properly described.  It is recommended to provide adequate detail when describing your asset to ensure your wishes are consistent as under your Will.

If you wish to discuss your Will, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Canny Legal team.

 

Kayla Kennedy

Law Clerk

 

 

 

New Year Resolutions that Will Make A Real Difference To You + Loved Ones

Now that the dust has settled on what was hopefully a fun-and-family-filled Christmas and New Year period, it is a great time to reflect on those hastily-made New Year’s resolutions, and consider the difference it will make if you actually see them through.

Perhaps you resolved that in 2019 you will exercise more, quit smoking, drink less, or spend less time looking at your phone.

For others, you may have decided that 2019 is the year you get your personal, financial or business affairs in order. That may include getting those Wills and Powers of Attorney prepared (which you’ve been meaning to do for years), getting that accounting or financial advice you know will make a difference, or kick-starting that business which you’ve been daydreaming about.

Now these are New Year’s resolutions that will make a real difference to you, your loved-ones, your financial health and your current/future employees.

The most important part is getting the process started. The second-most important part is making sure that each of the elements of your plan complement, and do not contradict each other. For example, the superannuation or asset planning which you undertake with an accountant or financial advisor should be reflected in your will, your business plan should be supported by adequate funding arrangements and succession agreements, and your business tax planning and compliance must be complemented by appropriate employment agreements for your staff.

Ideally, this means you should be seeing a lawyer, accountant and financial adviser contemporaneously, and have them talk to each other to ensure each element is consistent. But who has the time and energy for that?

This is where Canny Group can help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions. We have a team of experienced accountants, lawyers and financial advisers under one roof who are ready to listen, identify your needs or the needs of your business, and work cohesively to get your affairs in order, or your dream off the ground, for the best possible start to 2019.

 

Stefan Manche

Senior Associate Solicitor – LLB, BComm (Finance) 

Estate Planning for Blended Families

The term ‘blended family’ generally describes a family where either one, or both, parties to the current relationship have a child or children from a previous relationship, and may also have children together in the current relationship.

As you can imagine, estate planning can be a challenging task, both for the client and the advisor.  When thinking about your future and providing for your family after you have passed away, the role of your solicitor is to understand your wishes and assist in ensuring that you provide adequately for your spouse, the children of your current and previous relationships and any other dependents.  A key focus is often structuring your estate plan to avoid potential claims against your estate or other issues, and balancing this with your wishes.  It will often also encapsulate elements of tax planning to ensure that the benefit received by your family is not diminished with unnecessary tax or other duties or liabilities.

Depending on your individual circumstances and wishes, your solicitor may suggest the use of one or more of the following strategies as part of your blended family estate plan:

  1. BINDING FINANCIAL AGREEMENT

A binding financial agreement is an agreement between you and your current spouse detailing how each other’s assets are to be divided between the family in the event that the relationship ends.  The agreement may include different outcomes depending on the length of the relationship.  If proper formalities are met (such as each party receiving independent legal advice as to the impact of the agreement on them personally) then the agreement will be legally binding.  The terms of any such agreement should then be mirrored in the wills of each party.

  1. WILL CONTENT

Your will is central to your estate plan, and there are a number of mechanisms which can be included in your will to ensure that your spouse, children from your current relationship and children from a previous relationship are all adequately provided for.  Some of the more common mechanisms are the creation of a testamentary discretionary trust within the will, or a portable life interest or right to reside in a particular property.  These are strategies which provide a benefit to a person or multiple persons in the estate assets (usually the spouse), without actually transferring control or ownership of the asset to them, so that upon a designated time or event, that benefit will end and the control or ownership then passes to another party (usually children from a previous relationship).

  1. MUTUAL WILL AGREEMENT

Less restrictive then creating a trust or life interest, a Mutual Will Agreement is an agreement signed at the same time a couple makes their wills, with purpose of the agreement is to impose obligations on the surviving spouse to not change their will, even if they subsequently re-partner.  This generally ensures that all children of the parties (from the current and previous relationships) are provided for in the manner that the parties agreed, and can be enforced by the children should the surviving spouse change their Will to the detriment of the children.

  1. USE OF EXISTING STRUCTURES AND ASSETS

If may also be possible to use existing structures (such as a Family Trust or Self-managed Superannuation Fund holding valuable assets) to provide a benefit to particular parties outside of the Will, by transferring control of those entities either during your lifetime, or upon your death.  Another option may be to transfer assets to a particular person during your lifetime, or to change the ownership of the asset (such as a property) such that it will transfer to the intended beneficiary automatically upon your death (ie. by survivorship).  The benefit of such planning is that assets held in trust structures, held jointly or gifted by you during your lifetime will generally fall outside of those which can be claimed against by challenging your will.  However, there will also be potential control, stamp duty and tax consequences to be considered and therefore individual advice is required to ensure the best outcome for your situation.

The best outcomes for blended families are obtained when your family circumstances and individual wishes are considered carefully and holistically, to allow the most suitable combination of the above tools, structures and planning to be implemented.

If you wish to discuss your family estate planning please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Canny Legal team.

 

Kayla Kennedy

Law Clerk

What happens if I die without a Will?

What happens if I die without a Will?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked when preparing Wills. This is usually followed by the question, “is it true that the Government gets my money if I die without a Will?” The short answer to this is NO, however, the Crown (Government) will receive assets of the Estate IF a person dies without leaving a surviving spouse, partner, child, grandchild, sibling, parent or cousin. This means that if you would like a friend or charity to benefit from your assets, they will miss out.

When a person dies without leaving a Will (or a valid Will which deals with the entirety of their Estate) then they are said to have died Intestate. The Administration and Probate and Other Acts Amendment (Succession and Related Matters) Act 2017 governs how a deceased’s assets are distributed should they die Intestate. This results in the deceased and their loved ones having no control as to who benefits from the Estate and in what proportions, who administers the Estate and tax and stamp duty benefits that can flow on from a distribution under a valid Will are lost.

Should you require further information, we are always here to help. Please get in touch with our team.