Whether you think you don’t need an Estate Plan or you don’t want to think about it at all, estate planning is important…and is one of the most unselfish things you will ever do.
On the flip side, leaving what happens to you, your children and/or your estate up to chance places an unfathomable burden on loved ones at a time when they are grieving.
What is Estate Planning?
Many people assume Estate Planning is as simple as having a Will, but a good estate plan takes into account all of your personal, family and business affairs.
An estate may include financial assets, superannuation and associated life insurance as well as keepsakes that may only have sentimental value.
Estate Plans should also outline directives for handling your finances and medical care if you no longer have the capacity to do so.
An Estate Plan may include (though not limited to):
- An up-to-date and legally valid Will (as a minimum)
- General Power of Attorney
- Enduring Power of Attorney
- Advanced Health Directives
- Testamentary Trusts
- A binding death benefit nomination for superannuation and associated life insurance.
Wills and Estates Lawyers such as Gill and Lane can advise you on what you need to best cater to your individual circumstances.
Estate Planning Helps Your Loved Ones
While you probably don’t want to consider certain ‘What ifs’, just stop for a moment and ask yourself:
- What am I asking my loved ones to do?
- How much burden am I placing on them?
- Am I asking them to make medical and financial decisions if I can’t make them?
- Am I asking them to make decisions about the care of any dependents?
- Will my loved ones be able to agree on everything?
- Will my loved ones know what to do, and where to go to manage my affairs?
- Am I creating additional heartache and potentially paving the way for conflict and legal disputes?
A good estate plan can relieve many of these burdens and challenges. It’s the most unselfish thing you can do.
One of most difficult, yet uncommon scenarios, is when a person becomes incapacitated and medical decisions have to be made.
Without an Enduring Power of Attorney and/or Advanced Health Directives loved ones, who may already be in shock if the circumstances are unexpected, have to make difficult decisions about what medical care or interventions should take place. It’s not uncommon for families to disagree about the care that should take place, or for a loved one to feel guilt over a decision they have or haven’t made.
Enduring Power of Attorney and/or Advanced Health Directives relieve this burden as the loved one (hopefully has prior knowledge of your wishes and) merely needs to ensure your wishes are followed. They also have legal documentation as proof of your wishes, that can be shared with medical staff and family.
What happens if there isn’t a Will
If you die without leaving a Will you are said to die intestate, so there is no formal evidence of who you wanted as your beneficiaries and who you wanted as your Executor.
In this case your estate is distributed according to a pre-determined formula with certain family members receiving a defined percentage of your assets despite what you may have wished. Your assets may end up in the ‘wrong hands’ or being allocated in a way you never expected or wanted.
Every estate planning situation is unique and we have the expertise to help navigate any complexities that exist or could arise.
Contact Gill & Lane Solicitors at Sandgate via GregL@gillandlane.com.au, or 3269 8111 for a free, no obligation consultation. You can also check out our Estate Planning Checklist.