Why Everyone Needs to Know About Estate Planning

Estate planning means putting in place a structure to organise your financial and personal affairs before any future incapacity and your death. A complete Estate Plan enables your family, your business associates and others close to you to know your wishes and how you would like them carried out.

A Will is the document which sets out how your estate will be distributed upon your death. It deals with property that you personally own but may also direct control of other entities such as family trusts.

Issues to consider in your Will
– Who will be the Executor – that is the person who administers your estate
– Who are the family members or dependants that you should make provision for in your Will
– If your beneficiaries are minors or have a disability you can structure your Will to take these factors into account
– The tax consequences of distributing your estate

The Will must comply with the procedures set out in the Wills Act including being witnessed by two independent witnesses who sign in your presence and in the presence of each other.

It is important that your Will is reviewed often and updated as your circumstances change. Marriage and divorce revoke a Will in Western Australia.

Why should you have professionally prepared Will?
If you pass away without a valid Will, your estate is distributed pursuant to legislation (in Western Australia called the ‘Administration Act’).

The Act divides your estate in set proportions depending on which family members survive you. The Act does not allow for your wishes to be considered in the distribution of the estate.

A document by which you appoint an Attorney to make decisions about your financial affairs on your behalf.

An Enduring Power of Attorney is effective only during your lifetime and ceases to have effect on your death. It is effective during any period of incapacity.

An Attorney must act in your best interests and cannot use your finances to benefit him or herself. It is a power that you give only to a person you trust absolutely as it authorises third parties such as banks and the Titles Office to deal with your property on the instructions of the Attorney.

If you change your mind, you can revoke the EPA and appoint a different Attorney.

Why should you have an EPA?
If you become incapable of managing your own affairs, and you do not have an Attorney authorised to act for you, a person must be appointed by the State Administrative Tribunal to administer your financial affairs.

If there is no suitable person to act as an Administrator, an independent body such as the Public Trustee may be appointed to make those decisions for you.

A document by which you appoint an Enduring Guardian to make health and welfare decisions for you during periods when you are unable to exercise reasonable judgment.

The types of functions that an Enduring Guardian can perform include: deciding where you will live, what medical treatment you will receive and conducting legal proceedings on your behalf.

If you would like to discuss your Estate Planning needs or require further information about any of the information above, please contact Darren Miller or Michaela Speering at Culshaw Miller Lawyers on 9488 1300 or make an appointment.