Time and time again I talk to people that have an ‘idea’ of what they want to happen with their estate. They more often than not have a Will and think they may have completed a Power of Attorney. Year after year the we ask those same little questions during their tax interview and before we get out, “is your Will up to date?”, I get the cheerful response, they know what I’m going to say and they know they really need to do it.

The sad part about what seems like a simple matter is that we have clients that pass away or lose mental capacity before they get their affairs in order and more importantly communicated their wishes or put them in place. In many cases things work out fine and the beneficiaries of the estate are not unfairly done by, although things are not exactly how it was intended either. However we’ve seen situations where people die in intestate (die without a Will), where they do not have an effective will in place or where they have not updated their wills to reflect their current wishes and desires.

Dying intestate can have significant implications and this may vary from State to State. In Victoria, generally the implications are that the spouse will receive all personal chattels, the next $100,000 of assets and a third thereafter. The remaining two third goes to the children. This could have significant implications to the succession of the family business or the spouse’s future financial security particularly if the children do not provide for the spouse.

Even with a Will in place it may not reflect the current wishes of the individual that has passed away. This is very common where people procrastinate on attending to making changes to their Will. Time and time again there has been discussion of what should happen but time is cut short and those plans are never put in place. In such cases the last Will may have been when children were young or there was no clear direction as to specific assets, primarily business assets that should have been left for the benefit of specific beneficiaries. The options then may be that one beneficiary has to buy assets from other sibling to keep a business intact and the ability to run a business effectively in future may be lost or family relations may breakdown due to disagreement over the disbursement of assets.

To ensure your current wishes are fulfilled and that your wishes are set in concrete, ensure you attend to your succession and estate planning sooner rather than later. Talk to your family, your Accountant or your Solicitor while you have the ability. Always remember you are making a will for tomorrow, not for the next 20 years. You can always make amendments as things change, but don’t get caught without an effective Will. An action for right now – go and get your current Will out and read it. Are you happy that if you were to die today, this is what you want? If your answer is yes, great. If your answer is no, you need to do something about it.

If you would like further assistance with your succession and estate planning needs, please contact us and we can start working with you towards surety of your estate planning now.