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27 April 2015

Are you one of the 45% of Australian’s without a will?

Jimi Hendrix didn’t have one. Neither did Amy Winehouse. Heath Ledger’s didn’t include his daughter and Peter Brock’s was not valid.    But it’s not just a celebrity problem; many ordinary people don’t have a Will either.

In fact about 45% of Australians die without leaving a will. Wills are not just for the rich. Regardless of how much or how little money you have, a will ensures that whatever personal belongings and assets you do have, go to family or beneficiaries you designate. Without a will, Intestacy legislation or the court will make these decisions.

Peter Brock refused to see a solicitor to get his will drafted and instead he completed two different wills using a will kit. Both wills were held by the court to be invalid. This resulted in an expensive court case and ultimately his assets were not distributed the way he wanted. Had Peter Brock taken the time to ensure his wishes were validly recorded, he would have saved his family additional pain and suffering.

Pick the executor of your will carefully. Choosing who receives your assets is important but selecting your executor is just as critical. Don’t just choose the eldest child. Pick someone that you trust is going to be competent for the job. Your executor will need to arrange the sale of any property and manage any disputes that may arise under your will.

If we all live long enough we are probably going to develop some form of dementia. Whilst a will deals with our assets after we are dead we also need somebody to manage our affairs whilst we are alive but incapacitated.  This is undertaken by an attorney.  As with the choice of executor the choice of the attorney is a critical one as they will have full access to your bank accounts and can buy and sell assets just as you can.

Contrary to popular belief, superannuation does not form part of your asset. Therefore it is critical that you make a valid death benefit nomination to ensure that your super goes to your intended beneficiary. In Australia, superannuation assets total more than $1.62 trillion. For many Australians, superannuation forms a significant proportion of their personal wealth, and accordingly requires careful consideration as part of their overall estate-planning strategy. Therefore ensuring that you make a valid death benefit nomination is critical to ensure that your super goes to your intended beneficiary.

I recently spoke to a group of accountants in Hobart about the estate planning issues raised above.  Have you reviewed your will in the last 3 years?  Do you know whether you have made a binding or non binding nomination for the proceeds of your superannuation?  If you have any questions or concerns on estate planning matters please feel free to contact me to discuss.

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