As well as assisting our clients with their current legal needs, we also enjoy assisting them with future planning. One area of key importance is making sure our clients are aware of the legal rules and processes relating to what happens to their assets after they pass away.
Sometimes there can be unexpected consequences where no Will is in place, or where assets are held in companies or trust structures rather than within the estate of a person. It is always advisable that clients plan this area carefully.
Just what is comprised in your nest egg may determine how you ensure your aims are achieved. It could be personal property (shares, land and money), property in a trust in which you are perhaps one of or the main beneficiaries, benefits held in superannuation, or entitlements flowing from insurance, retirement benefits or court actions.
A critical question to ask about each of these assets is whether they are protected from former spouses, former or current spouses of your children, creditors (both yours and your children’s), or the trustee in bankruptcy for you or your family members. This question is not only relevant in current circumstances, but also just as importantly should circumstances change in the future – especially in the context of a relationship breakdown or financial hardship.
Whilst you are alive, removal of assets from personal ownership (after a certain period of time called a claw-back period) is generally effective to prevent creditors or a trustee in bankruptcy (who is the ultimate end of the line when creditors come calling) from taking them. However this is not always the case – even property held by a family member or trust may be at risk if the “protected” person controls it or made the financial contribution for its acquisition.
Part of estate planning may involve having honest discussions, which we can facilitate, with family members so that everyone understands what arrangements are in place and to ensure that all of the relevant issues are taken into account.
There is no one way of protecting your nest egg. Your situation is unique, and strategies will need to be tailored to you. We enjoy working collaboratively with accountants and financial planners to achieve the best outcomes for our clients.
We have skilled Estate Planners who will assist you with all of your needs including:
- Wills, Codicils and Testamentary Trusts
- Self Managed Super Funds and Personal Insurances
- Guardianship and Powers of Attorney
- Review of Trusts
- Working with your Accountant and/or Financial Planner
- Considering the risk of claims against your estate, and how to minimise the risk