Estate planning

Commonly asked questions about Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, and Elder Law

Litigation and non-compliance with various government regulations are significant risks that can be financially crippling. As such, it is important to have protection strategies in place to protect against these risks.

Within your estate plan, asset protection strategies can also address specific risks including:

  • Claims made by a former spouse, or de facto partner, following a relationship breakdown.
  • Claims made by disgruntled business associates or employees.
  • Claims arising out of a person suffering a serious illness.

These risks can arise out of circumstances that are neither foreseeable nor involving illegal or self-destructive conduct. They can arise out of the everyday activities of people going about their business.

Everyone should have strategies in place to protect their wealth. But some people are more obviously in need of asset protection strategies than others. These people include:

  • The very wealthy.
  • Those in the public eye who have some degree of celebrity status. Often, such individuals are seen as prime targets for overzealous litigators and regulators.
  • People who have a concern or suspicion that they may face some form of legal, financial or even medical difficulty in the not too distant future.
  • People who own a business, or who are engaged in a professional occupation. Any business owner or professional practitioner is at risk of being sued.

Importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for estate planning and asset protection. Each person’s particular circumstances need to be carefully reviewed, and a strategy developed that is appropriate for those circumstances.

Some strategies that often form part of estate planning are:

  • Using companies and trusts to quarantine assets that involve an inherent degree of risk.
  • Ensuring that active assets (such as a business) and passive assets (such as a share portfolio or real estate investment) are owned by different entities.
  • Giving inherited wealth to your beneficiaries and receiving inherited wealth from your benefactors through testamentary trusts.
  • Skilful use of debt and securities, particularly debt and securities involving companies and trusts in which you have an interest.
  • Structuring the appointment of company directorships within a family group to limit the family group being exposed to risk arising out of directors’ liabilities.
  • Strategic use of superannuation and insurance.
  • Developing agreements to deal with the orderly succession of business ownership after critical events such as death, disability and voluntary retirement.

There are many strategies for building on the wealth that you already have, such as investing in property or shares, taking advantage of certain superannuation options, or setting up trusts. Receiving professional advice can help you to understand any legal and taxation implications and minimise risks when you are making important financial decisions.

Your estate planning should encompass:

  • Your lifestyle.
  • Your retirement plans.
  • Your business goals (eg who will succeed you?).
  • Your taxation position.
  • Your plans for passing on your assets when you die.
  • Strategies for dealing with unforeseen circumstances such as illness or relationship breakdowns within your family.

If you have not planned ahead and put your affairs in order, then you may find that what happens to your estate is not at all what you would have desired. The Succession Act prescribes the process for distributing a person’s estate in the absence of a will.

Should you become unable to make personal decisions for yourself, in the absence of an enduring guardian with whom you have discussed your wishes, your living situation and medical treatment may not be what you would have wanted.

Put simply, a failure to get your estate planning in order means you may relinquish your decision-making power.

Wills are the only way we can be sure that what we own will be distributed in accordance with our wishes after we die.

In the absence of a Will, the Court will appoint an administrator to deal with your estate, which will be distributed according to intestacy rules. These prioritise the beneficiaries according to different classes. For example, if there is no surviving spouse or children, they prescribe who the estate will then pass to such as siblings, half-siblings, other relatives etc.

It is a legal document in which you appoint the person or trustee organisation of your choice to manage your property and financial affairs while you are still alive. This may be because you can no longer manage them yourself or because you choose not to for any reason. You don’t lose control of your affairs – you can still manage them if you wish to, and you can revoke the Power of Attorney at any time.

This is where you appoint someone to manage your personal affairs when you can no longer make these decisions for yourself. These decisions might include where you live, what healthcare you receive, and consent to medical or dental treatment.

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We’ll always be honest and upfront. We’ll look you straight in the eye and agree on a plan before moving forward.
We know the ropes and our professionals have expertise specific to every legal situation—many are Accredited Specialists.
We speak clearly and directly, so you understand our advice and can make decisions with confidence.
We’re local to wherever you are, and our offices are owned and operated by friendly, local professionals, proud of their communities.
We genuinely care about our clients. It’s the core of who we are and has been since the first practice was opened by ER Stack on the NSW Mid-North Coast in 1931.
We make the process easy for you with the latest tech to keep services cost effective—and you in control.

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