GKS Law's partner and solicitor Jodie Anderson-Bell outlines the importance of wills & estate planning, and why it is something your family can’t afford for you to ignore.
In simple terms, a will is a legal document that dictates how you wish for your assets to be distributed should you pass away. There are two essential elements to a valid will – who shall act as executor (i.e. who will collect and control the assets of your estate and finalise your affairs) and who will benefit from your estate (called beneficiaries). Even in the most complicated estate planning the foundation comes down to these two principles.
In order to ensure your will is valid it is important to work with someone who can think of things you may have missed and ensure your wishes are outlined clearly. So often people haven’t properly thought of all of the scenarios to be considered when making a will. For example, what will happen if the person you choose to act as executor can’t act when the time comes, or what are the tax consequences for your beneficiaries?
Solicitors can also bust the myths surrounding estate planning, such as misconceptions about who can challenge a will and also about what happens to your estate if you don’t have a will. It is often just as important to consider what shouldn’t happen with your assets and estate as it is to outline your wishes.
This is a key point of value when working with a solicitor for estate planning. A solicitor can explain the times or events that invalidate your will or impact on the effectiveness of your will. Particularly singles or couples in their asset building phase attend to estate planning, it is highly likely that the will should be revisited (but not necessarily changed) at least every 2 years to ensure it is not only accurate but is providing the best outcome for your family.
An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) is a document which allows a person (principal) to appoint someone who they implicitly trust to act on their behalf where necessary (as determined by the principal). This includes both financial and personal/health matters. Think of EPOAs like an insurance policy, it is important to have one for peace of mind and security should the worst happen, however, hopefully it sits on a shelf and never needs to be used.
Without an EPOA, sorting your financial affairs becomes very difficult as no one (not even a spouse or co-owner) can sell property on your behalf until they receive a statutory appointment from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). This is a tedious process which would often be required to be sought at the worst possible time.
Wills and estate planning doesn’t need to be complicated if you work with the right person. Even in more complicated estates, there are mechanisms and structuring that can be done to protect assets (from creditors or relationship breakdown) and provide tax advantages. These are all matters that you can discuss with a solicitor and take the worry, myths and mistakes out of protecting your assets and wishes.
Original article from Peninsula Life magazine