When was the last time you reviewed your Will and Estate Plan?
A robust estate plan will ensure your wealth is transferred smoothly and taxed effectively
For many people, wills and estate planning discussions are something that tend to be put off until tomorrow, next week or next year. We get it. No one wants to think about their own mortality and discussions about it are uncomfortable.
Even if you have a current will (which almost half of Australians don’t), it may not apply to all of your assets. Complications can arise depending on where your assets are held. For example, did you know that in some cases superannuation may not even form part of your estate?
Estate planning involves far more than just having a will. A robust estate plan ensures your wealth transfers smoothly and is taxed effectively for your intended beneficiaries. Essentially it comes down to three questions: What do I have, who do I want to have it, and what will the implications be for that person?
As your accountant, we’re in a unique position to have a full picture of your financial affairs as well as having expertise in tax and business considerations. Read through our case studies to get a better idea of how we can help.
Thomas came to see us about his estate planning and was surprised to find out that his will only covers assets owned by him personally. He had trusts and companies and had assumed they were covered too. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
With Thomas’ trusts, we could pass the control of the them to someone by amending the trust deed to make the desired controller (the appointor or guardian), or by directly changing the trustee of the trust. Since Thomas had numerous trusts, he wanted to be able to pass control of the trusts to different people so that he felt he was being fair to his beneficiaries.
Similarly, for his company, the assets owned by the company couldn’t be included in his will. Some of the shares in his company were held by him personally so he could gift those in his will, but some were held by trusts, so we had to pass control of the trusts to the beneficiaries.
Lastly, Thomas also had a self managed super fund, so we put in place Death Benefit Nominations so the funds were directed as he wished.
Estate Planning can be complicated when there are substantial assets and complex business structures in place. Seeking professional advice from an Estate Planning lawyer and accountant will ensure your hard-earned assets are passed to your intended recipients.
Estate planning isn’t only about dealing with your will. Sometimes the best transitional plan is to execute part of your estate plan sooner rather than later. Doing this ahead of time can mean your assets and business interests are transferred with more certainty. However, those family members may not be ready to take over, or there may be other issues to consider.
Suzanne had two children and unfortunately one of them, Anna, had a substance abuse problem. Suzanne’s business was going well and her other child, Dave, was working in it and contributing long hours to see it grow. Her concern was that she wanted to be fair to both children but also thought Dave deserved to be rewarded for his efforts. It was a tricky situation and one which was causing her some anxiety.
One of the options we discussed with her was to transfer the business now to Dave as an early benefit of her will. Her will would then acknowledge that Dave had received the benefit so there wouldn’t be a double up in the future. We also discussed protecting the other child financially with a special trust so they would essentially be drip-fed their inheritance. Of course, this then raises more questions to be worked through. What are the tax implications of now versus later? What are the tax implications of new versus old entities? What would happen if Dave divorced or if Anna got well?
There were many other complications in this situation. Families are complicated, estate planning is even more so. But we can guarantee you that you’ll have peace of mind if you take steps now to minimise your family’s stress when you leave them.
Assets left to an individual are “up for grabs” once in the recipient’s hands. In the event of a divorce, it’s possible this inheritance would be added to the matrimonial asset pool and split up. In the case of a bankruptcy, a trustee would have full access to the inheritance to repay debts. One way to protect this is by setting up testamentary trusts as part of your will.
In Suzanne’s case we set up these trusts in as a way to future proof her children’s inheritance. Suzanne felt very strongly that what she’d accumulated was for her children and grandchildren and not for anyone else. A testamentary trust was her way of carrying out her wishes. It also gave the family the added advantage of potentially reduced tax if the beneficiaries are children under 18.
Talking with your family about the intentions for your estate, while difficult, is important to ensure you desires can be honoured. Having the tough conversations now means you’ve communicated your wishes and may prevent an unintended outcome.
Perhaps the business you intended to leave to your children isn’t really what they want or are even capable of taking over. Or it could be that, whilst they haven’t had a significant involvement in the business to date, with adequate preparation they would be keen to have a stake.
We’ve sat down with families on countless occasions to go through the pros and cons of various scenarios of what an estate can look like. It can be eye opening for the will makers. They are trying to be fair, but the children may not see it that way if you’ve never had a discussion with them about your wishes or their intentions.
Having the conversation also means you can do things such as preparing an Enduring Power of Attorney so that financial and medical decisions can be made for you should you become incapacitated.
Ready to start the Estate Planning process?
We can guide you through the process and explain the tax considerations.
Estate planning services
Determining your asset pool isn’t easy when the business structures are complex or substantial. We develop a clear picture of who owns what and where.
We can provide tax advice to beneficiaries and help them with the administration requirements of companies, trusts and SMSFs when someone passes.
We make sure our clients have the right business and investment structures to take advantage of tax minimisation and asset protection strategies.
We can help you establish trusts, companies and SMSFs and take care of their ongoing tax and administration requirements.
If you have a business, succession planning may be an important element of your overall estate plan. We help you develop exit strategies, make informed decisions about structuring and tax implications and work towards the most beneficial end result for all.
If you have a SMSF, you may have some extra requirements to consider in an estate plan. Our SMSF specialists can work with your lawyers to ensure control of the Fund and payment of benefits occurs per your wishes.
We make sure ATO responsibilities are met and paid on time. We also make sure tax liabilities are minimised using all the legal strategies at our disposal.
We work with estate planning firms as expert advisors in complex and challenging situations. If you think you may need a tax or structuring perspective for your client, we are happy to assist.