Many people will assume their estate planning doesn't extend beyond writing a will. However, this is just one of the documents that forms part of the estate planning process, with a number of different options contained within this umbrella term.
In fact, the estate planning process can include any combination of the following documents in addition to a will:
- Superannuation death nominations - allows your superannuation to pass to a nominee upon your passing.
- Powers of attorney - lets the appointee make financial decisions in the event you cannot make them for yourself.
- Power of guardianship - assigned to a person who can make lifestyle and personal decisions for you if you are incapacitated.
- Testamentary trust - used to separate the management of assets from beneficiaries.
The exact combination of these different documents will depend on your personal situation and the circumstances that are affecting your estate planning. For example, a testamentary trust will only be relevant if you have certain assets you are looking to preserve into the future.
Each of these different documents can affect the distribution of assets in the others. For example, the beneficiaries named in a binding nomination in your insurance or superannuation policies will override those named in your will.
Family trusts are also not affected by the estate planning process, so any assets preserved in this structure cannot be included in a beneficiary's will.
It's also important to note that estate planning isn't something you can undertake once - these documents will need to be revised regularly to ensure they continue to reflect your personal situation.
Marriage, for example, will void your will, unless it was drafted in consideration of marriage. Likewise, a death among your beneficiaries or individuals appointed to hold power of attorney will affect these portions of your estate planning. Constantly revising this documentation in order to account for these changes is therefore essential for ensuring they match your wishes.
Finally, consider storing with your will any documentation that will assist the executor of your estate to manage your possessions. Birth and marriage certificates, ownership documents for shares and investments and any further information that is relevant should be stored with a will to make this process easier.
Even if you cannot store these documents together, including instructions for the executor to locate these documents is helpful. This will make it much easier to settle your estate once you have passed away.
To learn more about the different steps involved in the estate planning process, or to begin preparations yourself, make sure to contact a wills and estates lawyer.