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Why you need a will, and how to do it

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Image courtesy: Little Monkeys Photography
Image courtesy: Little Monkeys Photography

Who would take care of your children if something happened to you? Who would take care of your finances if you weren’t able to? Who would speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself?

Everyone wants to ensure their loved ones will be looked after when they lose capacity or pass away. However, in NSW only 56% of people aged between 35 and 49 have a Will, only 19% of people over 35 have an Enduring Guardian and only 40% have a Power of Attorney.

Tracey-Spicer

Tracey Spicer is the ambassador for the NSW Government’s Get it in Black and White campaign

Journalist and ambassador for the NSW Government’s Get it in Black and White campaign, Tracey Spicer, says that while many people put estate planning off, in fact the process is much simpler than many people think.

‘There are only three steps required to ensure your wishes are respected when you lose capacity or pass away.’ says Ms Spicer.

‘These are making a Will and Power of Attorney, and appointing an Enduring Guardian. It’s important for people to put plans in place while they still have capacity and can make informed decisions. Don’t leave it until it’s too late. By planning ahead you gain the peace of mind that you and your family will be looked after legally, medically and financially if you are to pass away or become incapacitated through injury, dementia, stroke or frailty.’

Ms Spicer says the Christmas period is the perfect time for Australians to start the conversation about planning ahead.

‘Christmas time brings families together. I urge everyone to take the opportunity to discuss their future wishes with their parents, spouses and extended family. It’s a difficult conversation to have but it’s so important. The process is much easier than most people think and NSW Trustee and Guardian or a solicitor can help you every step of the way.’

Here are four key issues to consider when establishing or reviewing a Will.

1. Who should you appoint as your beneficiaries?

While you can leave your estate to pretty much anyone you like, you do need to be careful. Challenges against a Will often occur when people feel they haven’t been provided for fairly. If you think your Will is likely to be challenged, you may want to leave a letter of wishes. This is an additional document explaining why the Will has been drafted in the manner chosen and can be referred to when a claim is being defended.

2. What assets do you want your beneficiaries to receive?

While some people feel the need to specifically gift every asset they own, a lengthy list of gifts is usually not encouraged. Assets held at the time of making your Will (and their value) may differ significantly from the assets owned at the time of death. It can therefore be a good idea to only gift a small number of specific assets in your Will and assign a percentage of the remainder of the estate to each beneficiary.

3. Who should you appoint as your executor?

Your executor is responsible for a range of tasks, such as locating the Will, organising the funeral, arranging probate, collecting the assets, repaying debts and distributing the assets. When choosing your executor, make sure you select someone who is trustworthy, in tune with your objectives, and capable of performing this very important role.

While some people appoint a family member as their executor, a Trustee company can be a good alternative – particularly if your Estate is complicated and/or suitable friends or family are not available. A Trustee company provides expert administration and legal services and charges a fee, typically paid from your Estate, after your death.

4. Should you establish a testamentary trust?

 A testamentary trust is a special type of trust that comes into effect upon your death, if you have included specific provisions in your Will. Because the Trustee owns and controls the assets, your estate can be protected from a number of potential risks and your beneficiaries can be provided for in a tax-effective manner.

Naturally everyone’s situation is different and we recommend you seek professional advice when planning your estate.

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