Often clients jokingly say to me: “Oh they will know what to do. And I won’t care anyway – as I’ll be dead!”
Those of you living in rural areas may be only too familiar with the heartache and despair that can ruin a thriving family when inadequate provision has been made for sensible succession of the family assets.
Succession planning starts very much with ownership. It sounds simple, BUT many of us do not know or understand the manner in which we hold our assets. Our real estate, our share portfolio, our cash, our super…. are these jointly held with our spouse? Are they held in a family trust, our super, or other type of trust? And if so, who ultimately has the control of that trust? And who stands to benefit from any of our life insurance or superannuation death benefits?
These questions are critical in planning any form of succession pathway. If you do not know the answers, then your solicitor can determine these with help from your accountant (who hopefully has a good handle on them for tax reasons), your financial planner, records at the Lands Titles Office, and from the various trust deeds themselves.
Only assets held in your own name will fall directly into your estate. Other assets (such as those that are held jointly with your spouse) will have their own natural pathway and may only fall into your estate if, for example, your spouse has predeceased you.
All of this will be discussed at your first appointment with your solicitor to determine your estate planning requirements.
Other than making provisions for your assets, you may also wish to let your loved ones know how you wish for your bodily remains to be disposed of. Whilst this may be an unpleasant thing to think about, and you may think that you “won’t care as I’ll be dead anyway!” – it is really for the benefit of those loved ones that you should ideally turn your mind to this. It may be of some comfort to them in their time of grieving to know that they are disposing of your remains in the manner in which you had specifically chosen, rather than leaving it for them to decide whether to bury or cremate you, and where to inter your remains or scatter your ashes? It can be comforting for them to know where you genuinely wished to end up.
Certainty and control – so hard to come by in this ever-hectic life of ours, and likewise after we die unless we can really get onto these issues soon, before it’s too late!