Creating an estate plan is the best thing you can do to protect your loved ones. Estate plans are similar to a Will, but they are much more complex, and you’ll typically need help from a wills and estates lawyer Brisbane to draft your plan. Creating an estate plan is a complex process, but we’ve broken it down into 5 easy steps to help you prepare for your planning meeting.
Gather Your Assets and Liabilities
The term “estate” refers to the sum total of your assets and liabilities. Anything that’s under your name becomes part of your estate when you pass away. That means the first step of the estate planning process is to gather information about all your assets and liabilities. This includes:
- Real estate like your family home and investments
- Cars, boats and motorbikes
- Major household possessions
- Trusts of which you are a beneficiary
- Bank accounts and savings
- Shares and indices
- Life insurance policies
- Businesses you own
An estate plan is your chance to decide how these assets are divided after your death. If you forget or fail to include an asset in your plan, it may cause a strain on your family, and the matter may need to be settled in court. Talking to an estate planning lawyer is the best way to ensure all your assets and liabilities are included in your plan.
Nominate Your Beneficiaries and Executors
There are two main types of parties that are named in your estate plan. Your Beneficiaries are the people who will benefit from your estate, such as receiving a gift or a share of your assets. It’s common for people to name their spouse, children, friends and other relatives as their beneficiaries, but you can also name organizations such as a charity or trust. There are very few limitations on who can be named as a beneficiary of your estate. Be mindful that you are normally required to treat your spouse and children fairly, or they may dispute the issue after you pass away.
The other major party in your estate is your Executor. The executor is the person who is responsible for overseeing the actual process of distributing your estate. In Australia anyone over the age of 18 can be nominated as your executor, but the role is demanding, so you should always nominate people who are up to the challenge. People have the right to refuse to act as your executor. For that reason, it’s advisable to nominate one or more back-up options. If no executor is named, or if all executors refuse, the estate will be administered by the Public Trustee.
The role of executor can be handled by one person alone, or you may nominate multiple people to perform the duty as co-executors. You can also name professionals (such as your lawyer) or the State’s Trustee as an executor.
Designate Guardians for Your Dependents
Estate planning is the best thing you can do to protect your family after you pass away. One of the biggest parts of the process is deciding who will look after your children and dependents when you are no longer capable.
If you have a spouse then this matter is usually simple – they will become solely responsible for your dependents. Things aren’t always so easy though. For example, if you have step-children, or adult children with disabilities, guardianship may not automatically pass to your spouse. For those times it’s important to nominate someone who is willing and capable of looking after your dependents.
Make sure you speak to your intended guardians prior to your estate planning meeting. You need to ensure they are will and capable of handling the responsibility of looking after your dependents. If your designated guardians refuse, or if no guardians are nominated, you won’t have any control over guardianship arrangements and your dependents may need to enter government care.
Talk to a Professional Estates Lawyer
The final part of the process is to talk to a professional. Estate plans are incredibly complex documents, and details like powers of attorney need to be lodged properly. For that reason you’ll need to consult a wills and estates lawyer Brisbane for help developing your plan.
A professional lawyer can walk you through the process and ensure all the details are in order. Their experience guarantees your estate plan is legal, binding and fair, which helps reduce the risk of disputes after you pass away. It’s also a good idea to talk to your lawyer about nominating them as an executor of the estate. Having their support means your family won’t need to carry the burden, and professional help can significantly reduce the strain on your loved ones at a difficult time.