Today, almost every adult in the country has some assets to pass on after they die – even if it is only the balance in a superannuation account.
Most Australians will have considerable assets when their home, superannuation, insurance and other assets are taken into account. Failure to make appropriate plans, of which preparation of a will is just a part, might not only cause additional heartache for your loved ones, but could see what you have worked hard for in life end up in the wrong hands.
An illustration of the importance of this can be found in the case of an 18-year-old who died intestate (without a will). Her superannuation fund paid out an insurance benefit of $80,000 to her estate and, because she had no will, it was divided equally between her parents. Her mother was upset because the girl’s natural father had left when she was only a baby and had no part in her upbringing. Perhaps if the girl had a will, she might have made a different decision. A more public illustration, at the age of 53, there is the case of the late Robert Holmes à Court. Robert Holmes à Court died intestate and his estate was to be divided one third for his widow Janet, and the remainder equally among their four children, as decided by the WA Supreme Court.
This can make all the difference
Details to be considered in your will depend on your stage in life, beneficiaries, level of assets and how they are held. Here are some of the most important considerations when preparing your will:
- Who is to be your executor? Preferably the executor should not be a family member. You need an ‘entity’ that you know will survive you by a number of years and can perform all tasks impartially. A legal firm (in preference to an individual) or a trust company could be a better choice.
- The most tax-effective way for your superannuation to be applied to support your surviving spouse and/or children.
- Whether you should you have a “binding death nomination” for your superannuation fund.
- Is your life insurance sufficient to support your dependents and is it structured to minimise the tax they may pay on the resultant income?
- Assets held in a company or trust cannot be willed directly and you need to consider how ownership or trusteeship will be transferred.
- If you have assets in excess of your needs during your lifetime, there may be advantages in “gifting” these prior to death.
While you can purchase a blank will form from a newsagent or download one from the internet and write out your own will, it is essential you take professional advice if you want to be sure your beneficiaries receive their entitlements in the most tax-effective manner. Very few people would wish their estate to be squandered in legal fees and taxes after their death.
Take the time now to get your affairs in order.