For women on a mission to take control and protect their own assets, having an estate plan is vital so that the right people benefit from your hard work.
While a Will is a very important document, that’s just part of the picture. There are a number of things that need to be considered to protect your interests and beneficiaries should the most unexpected events occur.
Superannuation does not automatically go to your family if you die. Your superannuation is not governed by your Will – it is governed by the trust deed of the superannuation fund, and by legislation.
The laws says that only a limited category of people are eligible to receive your superannuation death benefit directly from the super fund. Your parents, brothers and sister, nephews and nieces, or friends all do not fit in that category.
To appoint someone to get your superannuation death benefit, you need to complete a beneficiary nomination form with your superannuation fund. Each fund has their own form.
If you don’t have a valid binding death benefit nomination to a valid beneficiary, your superannuation fund can make their own decision about where to pay the death benefit.
Also, it’s important to note, most binding nomination forms expire every 3 years. So check with your superannuation fund, and make sure you keep it current!
Work out how much debt you have, and look into a life insurance policy that will pay it all off if you die.
You don’t want to be leaving your loved ones with debt, as well as grief.
Make sure it is life insurance, and not accident insurance, or some other limited policy that may not pay.
I had a client a few years back whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack, in his late 40s.
They thought he had life insurance, but it turned out it was just an accident insurance policy. That meant, it only paid out if he died in a car accident, or some other accident!
It did not pay when he died of a heart attack, so she was left with a huge mortgage to pay on her own.
If you have children under 18 years old, don’t leave it up to your family or the State Government to work out who your children should live with if you die.
A friend of mine was prosecuting a woman who had run a red light and killed a young couple who were crossing the road.
That young couple had died without Wills.
At the sentencing of the driver, the story of the children of that young couple came out in Court.
Those two young kids had been in and out of Family Court since their parents had died, because their grandparents hated each other, and they were fighting over the kids and the money!
An appointment of guardians is made in your Will.
Powers of Attorney
Last but not least, powers of attorney are documents that are usually done at the same time as your Will.
Because a Will only comes into play once you die, you are likely to need someone with powers to manage you affairs in the event that you are in an accident but don’t die.
This can include making sure bills are paid, making sure your children are looked after, and making sure your world continues to operate until you are well again.
I knew a single mother who was in a car accident. She got her leg crushed, so ended up in rehabilitation for some months.
The father of the children couldn’t have the two children full time, and her parents lived in a different State.
Luckily, she still had capacity to quickly prepare an appropriate power of attorney for her friend to look after the children and her affairs.
If that mother had had a brain injury in the car accident, it would have been too late for preparing a power of attorney, and the State Government may have had to step in and put the children into foster care.