Are You Sure That a Simple Will Is Going to Be Adequate in Your Case?
Have you recently drawn up a will with the intent of looking after your dependents when you pass away? If so, you may now be feeling quite happy with yourself that you've ticked this box. Certainly, it's better to have a will than not to have any documentation at all, and it makes it a lot easier for your family to access your personal assets. However, you may have a lot more work to do if you are like many Australians and have other interests. In this case, you may need to consider a more formal estate plan instead. What is involved here?
Jointly Held Assets
When you draw up a simple will, this will typically cover any assets that you possess under your own name. The situation becomes a lot more complicated if you have an asset that is jointly held. Some people have a home that falls under this category, and in the absence of documentation to say otherwise, the remaining part of the asset will go to the survivor upon the death of the co-owner. In some cases, this can lead to unwanted exposure from a legal perspective.
It may be best to change the terms of the agreement so that each person is known as a "tenant in common" with equal shares. This can have tax advantages and means that the deceased partner's shares will be held by the survivor under a right of occupation, to shield the house from third-party claims.
What about shares you may hold in a private company? Ordinarily, these cannot be transferred elsewhere unless the other shareholders agree, so that needs to be covered within a proper estate plan. You may hold some assets in a trust, and the all-important trust deed will cover what happens in the event of your death. You will need to look closely at where those assets go in the event of your passing.
Don't forget your superannuation, either. Those benefits will come under the control of the trustee who has the ultimate decision. The contents of a simple will may not influence the destination of your superannuation fund, but a "death benefit nomination" in a proper estate plan may do so.
Maybe it's time for you to consult with a wills and estate lawyer so that they can provide you with advice and help you augment your will with additional documentation.