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The typical Australian family has changed quite a bit over the last few decades. People are living longer, kids are staying at home until their thirties and blended families with multiple sets of kids are now more common. In most cases, it means there are now more people in our lives to love and look after. However, it can also add a whole new dimension to the issue of estate planning.
Despite how close a family may be, disputes over an inheritance can, and often do, occur. These disputes may start over small things, but they have the potential to grow larger and tear a family apart, particularly when a will is contested in the courts. So it’s vitally important to carefully consider appropriate estate planning.
No one wants to think about their own mortality, but having a clear, unambiguous will increases the chance of your wishes being followed, makes the job of your executor easier and potentially reduces the risk of a family dispute. It can also help if you make a list of designated items and provide an explanation to family members or benefactors.
A power of attorney may also help alleviate the risk of a family dispute. The person appointed can be anyone over the age of 18 years – a relative, friend or trusted professional adviser. They will only be legally authorised to do things on your behalf should you be unable to make decisions regarding money or property. With a power of attorney in place, there can’t be any changes made to your will or resuscitation orders, so they can add more certainty for all concerned.
This is even more significant when you consider that one of your largest assets, your super, can’t be included in your will. Now don’t panic, you still have some control over its distribution. By making a valid binding death benefit nomination you can nominate a beneficiary or beneficiaries to receive your superannuation in the event of your death. If you have nominated your legal personal representative (for example, the executor), the funds become part of your estate and are distributed in accordance with your will. To nominate someone to receive your super, contact QSuper, complete the Binding Death Benefit Nomination form and return it. It’s that simple.
If you don’t have a binding death benefit nomination, the trustee of your super fund has the discretion to pay your death benefit to your dependents or to your personal legal representative before looking to any non-dependents.
Ensuring your will is regularly updated when your circumstances change is another crucial part of good estate planning. In fact, it can be one more safeguard against the possibility of contested wills and family disputes.
While death may not be one of the most popular topics of conversation amongst the family, having these discussions is an essential part of putting an estate plan in place. It can also help ensure your wishes are followed, provide clarity for all concerned, and minimise the risk of a family dispute.
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