What to consider when discussing estate planning with your loved ones
Broaching the subject of your passing or potentially becoming mentally incapacitated is a sensitive and difficult discussion and not necessarily one that those close to you will be keen to have.
So, while it’s important to discuss your final wishes concerning the distribution of your assets with close family, it’s also critical to make sure you act on your requests as much as possible, while you are still fit and healthy.
Here are some topics to consider:
- Your will
Your will is a legal document that covers what you’d like to happen with your assets and allows you to appoint a guardian for your children or even detail wishes for your funeral. It’s important to have a will in place as it represents your voice after you’ve passed.
Discuss what will be included in your will and how you want your assets to be distributed. This could be a controversial subject, so make sure you iron out any family issues before you see the solicitor. If you decide to opt for writing your own will, make sure you have a solicitor or trustee review it to make sure it is legally binding.
- Who you would like to be the executor of your will?
Let your family know the person you have chosen to be the executor – this is the person responsible for carrying out the wishes detailed in your will. Make sure the person you’ve chosen agrees and knows the duties of an executor (which differ in each state). Also, let your executor know where your will and other important documents will be kept, such as with your solicitor or in a bank safe.
- Who will make your financial and lifestyle decisions if you can’t?
Family members may volunteer to help, but you will need planning ahead tools in place, including a properly documented will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship to appoint someone to make legal, financial and health decisions for you if you can’t.
- What are your wishes for care if you can’t look after yourself?
The My Aged Care website (www.myagedcare.gov.au) provides a range of options from receiving help in your home to after-hospital care to transferring to an aged-care home.
- Are your super beneficiaries current?
Some people assume that the proceeds of their super are included in their will. This is not the case, so you need to make sure your beneficiaries are up-to-date. A beneficiary is a person who receives money or other benefits from a benefactor.
- What is your plan for your kids (and the pets) if you can’t care for them?
Consider appointing a legal guardian to look after your children. But be aware that the court has the ability to change or remove the guardian if it is in the child’s best interest to do so. Also, check what options are available for looking after your pets when you can’t.
- Do you want to be, or are you already, registered as an organ donor?
Being an organ donor can be a sensitive, and sometimes controversial, family issue. There are generally three steps to consider:
- Discover what’s involved
- Make the decision to donate, and
- Discuss it with your family.
- Do you have specific instructions for your funeral arrangements?
Discuss this with your family as they will need to enact your wishes within days of your passing. This will be a very stressful and emotional time for them, so consider how you want to pay for your funeral and document where you want your final resting place to be.
- Talk to your partner about finances
Check with your bank to make sure your partner will be able to access your account after you’ve gone. This is because funds from your estate (probate) can take months before they become available to pay for funeral and other out-of-pocket expenses.
So, now you know what to think about before you start the conversation. If you really want your assets to be distributed according to your wishes, it’s a good idea to let loved ones know of your plans in advance. And while it may be a difficult and emotional subject to discuss with them now – it will ensure that your wishes are known – and it will be for their benefit in the long run.