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Creating a strong estate plan

Last Updated at August 16th 2021
A well prepared and executed estate plan can not only save your estate unnecessary costs in the future but can also save your loved ones from unnecessary stress after your death.

Key Points:

  • A well-drafted Will will prevent potential family conflict after you die

  • If you don't have a Will, then your estate may not be dealt with as you wished

  • You should include funeral and burial wishes in your estate plan 

Older couple organising their estate plan
Effective estate planning ensures your assets are distributed to the right people according to your wishes after you pass. [Source: Shutterstock]

Estate planning is the process in which you discuss with a legal practitioner what you want to happen with your estate, known as your assets, when you die, as well as appoint decision makers such as Guardians or Enduring Power of Attorneys, or other important documents like an Advance Care Directive.

It is a plan which covers all of your assets after you pass away and puts in place future protection guards for yourself if you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself. 

Consider who you want to be the executor of your estate (the person in charge of your Will), who you want to benefit from your estate, your funeral wishes and who you want to look after your financial and personal/health matters if you were to lose capacity during your lifetime, for example by way of dementia or stroke.

Effective estate planning ensures your assets are protected and distributed to the right people according to your wishes, and your decisions around end of life care are respected.

Your Will is a vital document in this process

A properly drafted, up-to-date Will is the only way that you can be sure your assets will be dealt with as you wish when you die.

If you decide to make a Will through a Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning kit, it can save you money now, but can often add to the costs of your estate administration.

Generally, a lawyer is the best person to go to for advice or help in organising your Will. You will be required to get your Will witnessed and signed by two individuals, and then have a copy available with the lawyer, at your own home, and with people you trust.

If you are wanting to put provisions in place to look after younger family members after your death, a Testamentary Trust may be the way to go. 

The trust is organised in your Will and only takes effect once you die. Testamentary Trusts protects assets for various reasons, like waiting for a child to reach a certain age to receive their inheritance.

EPOA, Guardianship and Advance Care Directive

An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) is an additional important document within estate planning. 

The person appointed as the EPOA makes decisions around your finances, health and care, or both, on your behalf after you lose the capacity to do so. It can be a very powerful document to sign and will only cease on your death.

Your chosen attorney should be someone you trust and will stick to your wishes after you are unable to make the decisions for yourself. 

The only way to ensure that your loved ones are protected is to obtain proper legal advice regarding your estate planning. 

A Guardianship order is a little different and allows an individual to make decisions around your accommodation, health and lifestyle if you lose the capacity to make those decisions yourself.

This is equally as important as an EPOA, since it heavily impacts your wellbeing and way of life, compared to an EPOA who is only able to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf.

Within this area, is an Advance Care Directive, which outlines all your wishes once you reach the end of your life.

It can make decisions around the palliative care you receive, or if you don't wish to be resuscitated after a stroke or left in a coma for a long period of time.

While Advance Care Directives aren't legally binding in every State or Territory, if there is a medical document available, it can make difficult decisions a lot easier for family and friends.

Burial instructions

Depending on your background, you may already have in mind what you wish to happen with your body, however, you need to let those nearest and dearest know what your wishes are.

Traditionally, many people used to organise plots in a cemetery for their bodies, whether that be a tombstone by themself, or buried in the family plot in their local cemetery.

Recently, more and more people are deciding to be cremated and have their ashes scattered at places that were important for them, like a special beach or camping spot.

New, popular burial choices include people having their ashes placed in the dirt of tree saplings, so their ashes can be included in the growing process of a cherry blossom tree or great oak tree.

Other more eccentric burial options include ashes being made into jewellery.

Talking about estate planning can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with a loved one, but it is better to have the talk with your relatives sooner than later.

When it comes to your end of life, what do you need to plan for? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

What is an Advance Care Directive?
Financial Enduring Power of Attorney
Do I need a Will and last testament?

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