To protect yourself and your loved ones, it's essential to start planning your estate. While a will is one component, there are other assets your Will doesn't automatically cover. Therefore, we've put together an estate planning checklist in Australia to ensure you’re covered.
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is preparing tasks that manage your assets when you pass away or lose capacity. Planning your estate includes making a will, setting up trusts, choosing an executor, handling funeral arrangements and more.
What does estate planning involve?
Estate planning involves determining how you’ll distribute and manage your assets after you pass away. Generally, it will also include your enduring power of attorney and advance care directive if you lose capacity.
Assets that typically make up your estate include property, cars, shares, heirlooms, cryptocurrency, life insurance, superannuation, pensions and debt. The purpose of planning your estate is to protect your family and loved ones.
Estate Planning Checklist in Australia
1) Make a list of your physical assets
When planning your estate, the first start is by making a complete list of your physical assets. This list can include houses, cars, possessions and more. At this point, this list should exhaust all things you would leave behind.
2) Follow this up with a list of your non-physical assets
Next, make a list of your non-physical assets. This list can include shares, cryptocurrency, superannuation, life insurance, bank accounts and more. It’s important to list these items because they typically don’t automatically become protected by your Will.
3) Assemble a list of your debts
Then, assemble a list of your debts. When you pass away and leave behind debt, your executor will use assets to pay down any debt. If there’s not enough to pay down the debt, the state takes over. However, you should keep your Will up to date and be remove debts that you pay down.
4) Identify any organisations or members you have
While this doesn't apply to everyone, you should clarify if you're a part of any organisation or have any memberships. In some cases, these organisations may have some accidental life insurance that your beneficiaries may be eligible to claim.
5) Make copies of your lists
Now that you have complete lists of your physical and non-physical assets, it's time to make copies for safekeeping. Later, it would help if you told your executor where you've kept a copy of these lists in the event you pass away before updating your Will.
6) Choose your beneficiaries
After identifying your assets, it's time to decide the beneficiaries of your estate. If no known heirs are listed in your estate, the court will typically start with your next of kin and then follow a line of family and loved ones.
7) Write your Will
Now that you fully understand your assets and your beneficiaries, it's time to write your Will. Regardless of where you are in life, it would help if you took the time to write a Will. It not only safeguards your wishes, but it protects your loved ones.
Your Will should Identify how you want your assets distributed, any dependants, guardians for children and what will happen to your pets if you can no longer care for them. It should also identify any gifts you want to make to charities or individuals.
8) Speak with an expert to discuss taxes and opening a trust
When planning your estate, depending on the size, it’s important to consider the effect it has on taxes, any tax benefits that you might want to know about and whether or not you also should open a trust. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have both trust and a will.
9) Make a succession plan for any business you own
If you own a business or are a partner in a business, you should plan who to hand it down to if you lose capacity or pass away. Having a will doesn’t automatically guarantee that your business will go to your next of kin.
10) Choose an Executor
Part of planning your estate is appointing an executor, multiple executors or professional executor services to manage your estate. This role holds lots of responsibility and should be well thought out and discussed with the person you choose to appoint.
11) Set up a Binding Death Benefit Nomination for your Super
Super funds are technically not yours because they're held in a trust that the trust fund holder manages. Therefore, it's crucial to set up a binding death benefit nomination for your super. Then, when you pass away, this person will receive your superannuation.
12) Nominate a beneficiary for life insurance
Like superannuation, your Will doesn't automatically cover life insurance and is not yours to pass down. Therefore, experts will typically recommend nominating a beneficiary for your life insurance death benefit.
13) Appoint a General or Enduring Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney is an important element in planning your estate. Your general power of attorney is helpful for a specific event or period. However, enduring power of attorney is especially helpful if you lose the capacity to make important decisions about your financial matters.
14) Consider developing an Advance Health Directive
In addition to a power of attorney, your advance health directive will outline your wishes if you lose the ability to make important decisions about your health and quality of life. It allows you to make your wishes are known, should you suddenly lose your ability to share them.
15) Identify where you’ll store your Will
After handling your estate assets, it's time to identify where you'll store your Will. This will depend on how you created your Will, where you're located and if you've chosen to use the professional services of a lawyer or solicitor.
16) Provide copies of your Will to your executor
Your executor should know that they were appointed the role of an executor in your Will. Once they do, make sure to share a copy of the most up to date version of your Will. We also recommend sharing with them the lists of your assets.
17) Discuss your wishes with and advise family members and beneficiaries
After finalising your Will and planning your estate, it's time to let your family and beneficiaries know. It's up to your whether you let them in on the full details of your Will, but it's always a good idea to let them know you have one.
18) Make a plan for managing your digital legacy
When creating your Will, it's essential to account for your digital legacy. This legacy refers to your social media accounts. Some platforms allow your executor to change your account to in memory of and keep the account open.
19) Make a funeral plan and advise family members of your wishes
It's essential when planning your estate to outline your funeral wishes. Planning a funeral for a loved one is a heavy burden in such an emotional time. By planning, you can help your loved ones and save them financial stress.
20) Keep your Will up-to-date
After you pass away, the last valid Will is the one that's binding in court, which is why it's so important to make sure that you keep your Will up to date. It would be best if you did this if there are any significant changes to your assets or executors.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.