Australians don’t like talking about death even though let’s face it, it’s inevitable. Even saying the word is not something we like to do. We all have a phase or alternative, and just some of the ones that come to mind: he’s passed away, slipped off, had a good innings, kick the bucket, gave up the ghost, bit the dust, six feet under and my favourite, he’s carked it. Any others you can think of?
I see this for us Australians as a blast from our British and Irish past. As for most of us we just don’t want to think about it as for some reason if we do, bad luck will follow. And so let’s make up a word or phase so its funny rather than something morbid. It’s one of the things I admire about Americans as they seem very practical about it all and just don’t get hung up on death and other issues we don’t like to talk about.
From my own experience I know the basis of any good plan, is to have a good ‘safety net’ underscoring it all. But trying to get people to act on that is nearly impossible. As I have been told before by clients, Investing is fun, Insuring is not (as we don’t want to think about it). And the stats back this up as most Australians are under insured, don’t have a 3 month savings nest egg and especially don’t have a Will.
My podcast this week is an interview with Katrina Brown of Nautilus Law, and when I mentioned the stats that 75% of Australians don’t have a Will or at least an up-to-date Will. She responded by saying that she feels it is even worse than that as even if you do have a Will, very few have the right people appointed to look after this. I suppose I was one of those as I did not know who to put as executor when I was in my 20s and just married and so just put down my mum. Looking back she was not the type of person who could have handled the duties if I had ‘popped off’.
So with the help of Katrina, here are six essential tips to getting your Will and Estate planning right (make sure you listen to the podcast for all her insights and tips):
- Understand your Estate Planning is not just a Will. You need to make decisions on not only your assets but also around your finances and health so enduring Power of Attorneys and Guardianship are also needed as well as a Will.
- Make sure you choose the Right people. Katrina says that you may want different people (or a combination of people) looking after the overall executor role as well as your health decisions compared to your financial decisions, or even looking after your children. A panel of three provides a simple majority, and so you know at least a decision will be made.
- Consider a Testamentary trust (sometimes known as a Bloodline Trust) If you have adult children and because you have worked hard to build your assets, you want to make sure when you eventually leave them to your children, they are protected from future possible predators.
- Where they are kept and who to contact. Have the documents in a place that’s easy to find, whether that’s at your lawyers, or a safe deposit box and make sure you let people know about it. As if you die, the last thing you want once you have gone to all this trouble, is no one knowing where to find it (as there is no central registry for Wills). Also, make sure you have a list of the most important people so easy to contact – doctors, lawyers, advisers and closest friends – and make sure your adult children and Executor know where it is and who to contact.
- Talk to your family about this. Its amazing how many times I’ve spoken to people in their 40s or older, and they tell me that their elderly Dad doesn’t want to talk to them about his Will. Why the secrecy? The last thing I would want is to spring a surprise on my adult children once I’ve gone. Why cause arguments, issues or worse, get lawyers involved to argue over your assets. Let people know and once you have told them, you don’t have to talk about it again if you don’t want to.
- Find an Estate Planning specialist. Just like your doctor, accountant, financial adviser, you want someone you can build a relationship with and to trust. Someone you feel confident will look after your family if you’re not there anymore. Also choosing the right type of lawyer to draft all this is important as you want a specialist who has experience in this important area of law.
So next time you have a dinner party, why not trying to turn that conversation around to death, okay, yes it will probably kill the mood. So maybe in a light-hearted way but the more we can talk about it, maybe we can make it a priority and start taking action, and finally get this important piece of our ‘safety net’ organised. As I can tell you from experience, leaving problems for your loved ones is not what you want to do, even if it is hopefully a long, long time from now!
Article by Marc Bineham – Money coach, speaker and award-winning author of The Money Sandwich