When obtaining financial advice the question you should be asked is whether you have your estate plan in order. But how many advisors ask to see a copy of your will? All professional advisors should do so to ensure that it is consistent with any advice they may be giving.
The world we live in is a complex place and even those who say they have ‘nothing’ can find their estate plan unable to be executed as they wish if the proper steps are not taken to ensure their assets are working with their estate plan. This plan also should be reviewed regularly, especially each and every time you make any changes to your financial situation.
Take for example a farmer with two children who he wants to benefit evenly from his estate. All assets are in his name at the time of preparing the will so his wishes will be carried out. However he obtains some very prudent financial advice from his accountant to transfer the bulk of his assets, being some farming land into a family trust as he and one child are working together on the farm. He appoints this child as trustee with himself. Upon death it is discovered that his estate plan will no longer achieve what he wants as the majority of the assets are within the family trust and not dealt with under the terms of his will.
Another example is insurance and superannuation. Your estate plan could state that you wish a testamentary trust established upon death to allow for the tax effective distribution of income for your family. However the bulk of your wealth is within superannuation and an insurance policy both with binding nominations to your spouse. This asset won’t hit the estate and hence there is no benefit to the testamentary trust – a wasted exercise and expense.
There are many more reasons why your financial advisor and/or accountant should ask to see a copy of your will to ensure that they can structure your finances correctly so that your wishes can be carried out. It is naturally a time of great stress for your executors, who often are a loved ones, and the last thing you want to do is increase this stress by creating an estate plan that cannot be implemented in the way you were hoping.
Estate planning lawyers and your advisors should work together to ensure that you are adequately looked after and prepared for what may come in the future.
If you need assistance with your estate planning send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 08 8409 4333.