Just recently a client asked why we sent a letter to him and his wife reminding them to review their estate planning documents, as he believed that it had not been that long since they initially prepared their documents. When I mentioned to him that it had been 10 years since they last did their wills, he was shocked that it has been that long and like most of us we sometimes do not realise how quickly time flies by. They both agreed that given the amount of time that have passed, it might be worthwhile to go over it again.
At the start of our meeting they said that they quickly looked at their wills before coming in and they both believed that their wills did not require updating as everything was left to one and other and then equally to their three children on testamentary discretionary trusts. I explained that even though this might be the case, we should review their current asset structure to ensure that it is in line with their estate plan, seeing as their wills are only one aspect of their overall estate plan.
To cut a long story short, by the end of our meeting we had uncovered various issues which needed to be addressed to ensure that they had the simplest and most cost-effective structure to fulfil their estate plan which did not involve updating their current wills.
To name only a few, it included:
- Updating their assets in such a way that they are jointly held, which means that when the first spouse passes away the survivor does not have to apply for probate which is faster, simpler and more cost-effective way for the surviving spouse to receive the assets;
- Changing the trustee of the self-managed superannuation fund to a trustee company, which means that when the first spouse passes away, the trustee company can continue to act as trustee and the grieving spouse does not have to deal with administration that could easily be avoided (please also see our blog with respect to why it’s beneficial to have a corporate trustee);
- Updating binding death benefit nominations for all superannuation funds now (as the surviving spouse might not have capacity when the first of them passes away) to ensure that when the survivor of them passes away, all the death benefit gets paid into the estate and the testamentary discretionary trusts can get utilised;
- Updating the self-managed superannuation fund deed to ensure that it is in line with current legislation including updating the law that will apply to the deed as it was initially vested in another State before they moved to Queensland; and
- Reviewing all written notes that they made in relation to dealing with their estate and assets, to ensure it does not constitute a testamentary document which can change or even cancel their existing wills.
It is easy to see from the example above that when you review your estate plan, you should look beyond your will and take into consideration other issues that might affect your overall estate plan.
So if you think that your circumstances have changed (even if it’s not a substantial change) or you can’t remember the last time you reviewed your estate plan, it is a good indication that you should contact your solicitor.
As always should you require a lawyer to assist you with your next estate plan, please contact us as we will be able to provide you with a fixed price for the work required.