Estate planning and coverage - what can I include in my will?

Date: Nov 22, 2011

In Australia there are a large proportion of people who do not have a legal will in place, perhaps indicating that there is some confusion over just what should be included in this vital document.

It could be that many individuals dread the thought of having to sit down and identify their belongings as part of the estate planning process.

The confusion begins because there is mixed perceptions of what counts as an asset - with several sections that need to be properly thought over before a decision is made.

Perhaps it is for this reason that many people leave their wills incomplete, or do not update them to reflect major life changes.

The difficulties with this approach is that they face the prospect of dying intestate - without a legal will in place - meaning that their estate could be divided up according to state and federal laws rather than their wishes.

One key point to consider is the name that a particular asset is in - such as property investments and company shares.

If these are held directly by the individual then they are considered to form part of their estate - however if they form part of a trust or business venture, then it can become a little more complicated.

Other related articles - such as joint home ownership and superannuation - are not directly governed by a will and need to be dealt with by separate documents.

Another issue to consider is how you want any trusts or managed funds to operate in your absence - simply leaving the amount to surviving families without adequate instructions can lead to disruptive arguments as individuals engage in various estate disputes.

This will prove to be an increasingly important issue in the future - with an estimated $600 billion in assets expected to be inherited over the next ten years or so.

Some experts have estimated that as much as $6 billion of this wealth could be lost due to poorly executed - or in some cases non-existent - transitional estate planning procedures.

One way to help ensure that assets are looked after and maintain their value during your lifetime is to bestow a trusted individual with an enduring power of attorney.

In effect this gives them the legal ability to administer to your financial affairs if you happen to lose mental capacity, helping to ensure that investment portfolios and wealth creation devices can be kept in top shape.