It’s pretty difficult to get couples to talk about estate planning at any time. But for newly married couples or those on the cusp of a wedding, now is the time. You are already thinking about the future, and the force of good intentions may never be stronger.
First of all, it can prompt a discussion of financial and long-range planning –always a solid foundation for married life. For those with children or other pre-existing financial commitments from an earlier life, it can strengthen and define the nature of those wider bonds. And finally, of course, it can help protect those you love from unforeseen hardship.
So, let’s get started.
Step one: Start fresh
Many people do not realise that marriage usually invalidates an old Will. In NSW, the situation is governed by the Succession Act 2006.
Without a new Will, whatever you have at the time of your death will pass under the rules of intestacy. If you die without a Will your estate will be distributed according to a pre-determined formula and it may ultimately pass to the government.
That may not be what you intend. It will not allow for special gifts, and many see it as a virtual invitation to a court challenge. Even a simple Will can prevent this.
Step two: Get to know your tools
As life becomes more complicated – you buy a house, have children, move up in the business world or retire — other tools beyond a simple Will may become appropriate. You may want to make guardianship arrangements, set up a trust or consider how superannuation or life insurance (both of which generally pass outside a Will) can add to the picture.
You do not have to figure out how to arrange all of this at the outset. That will likely make the project too huge to begin, but you can help yourself greatly by talking with a competent estate attorney about the range of tools you may have to accomplish your goals as they grow and change.
A kit will is not adequate for this task. Do not take estate planning advice from the mums at pre-school drop-off. You need to work with a professional, even if you are young, healthy and not a millionaire – especially if you are not a millionaire.
Step three: Repeat, then repeat again
Commit now to revisiting your estate plan at every major life event, or failing that, set intervals for review such as every five years. Updating and revising, especially on the basis of your increasingly sophisticated understanding of what is possible with an estate plan, can be relatively easy and painless compared to that first brave step of getting started.
About Rolf Howard
is Managing Partner of Owen Hodge Lawyers. He has been in the legal practice since 1986 and a partner of Owen Hodge Lawyers since 1992. Rolf focuses on assisting clients to proactively manage legal responsibilities and opportunities to achieve competitive advantage. Rolf concentrates on business planning and formation, directors’ duties, corporate governance, fund raising and business succession. His major interest is to assist business owners and their financial advisers plan and implement strategies to build and exit from successful businesses.