Learning estate planning basics

Date: Apr 11, 2013

People may not be aware of the differences between writing a will and estate planning - the terms are sometimes used synonymously, but it is not correct to do so.

Completing a will is a central part of estate planning, but it is a much broader undertaking than just a single document and it is important to have a good knowledge of what will happen to your assets should the unspeakable happen.

Life insurance, superannuation nominations, powers of attorney, power of guardianship - these are all elements of estate planning that you will need to consider alongside writing a valid will.

Contacting an experienced estate planning lawyer should be your first port of call when looking to get your affairs in order, but here are a number of areas you will need to address.


Superannuation is not automatically included under your estate when you pass away, so making sure you have an idea of who you want to benefit from your retirement funds is vital. If the money has been accumulating for a number of years, it could be worth a sizeable amount.

Power of attorney

Nominating a power of attorney should not be overlooked when estate planning, as it provides you with peace of mind that your assets are well looked after if you are unable to make financial decisions on your own behalf.

There are different power of attorney set-ups.

General power of attorney: A nominated general power of attorney can make legal and financial decisions for you, usually over a specific timeframe. This may be because you are in a different country or are otherwise incapacitated for a short time.

Enduring power of attorney: An enduring power of attorney is useful should you become permanently incapacitated. For example, if you suffer a stroke or develop dementia, then an enduring power of attorney can legally manage your financial affairs.

Power of guardianship

The guardian you appoint has designated powers set out in the appointment document to make decisions relating to your medical and dental treatment and housing and accommodation needs if you no longer have the legal capacity to make those decisions yourself.

Your attorney makes decisions about your finances. Your guardian makes decisions about your medical and dental treatment and accommodation.