Estate planning: what your will doesn’t cover

Most of us think of estate planning as simply writing a will. However, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your exact wishes after you pass away can be more complicated than that.

Having an up-to-date will is an essential part of the estate-planning process. Some assets automatically form part of your estate when you die, which means they can be distributed according to the terms of your will. These include individually owned bank accounts, listed securities, managed funds and interests in any property co-owned with someone else. 

There are also assets your will doesn’t cover such as superannuation. These can make up a significant proportion of your wealth and you need to plan carefully to ensure they go to the people you want them to.

These are some common assets not covered by a will:

Superannuation and life insurance 

It’s possible to ask your super fund trustee to pass your superannuation on to family members who are dependents. All you have to do is complete the death benefit nomination. You can nominate your partner, children or other dependents or you can elect your estate. 

It’s important to review your nominations regularly, particularly when your personal circumstances change. If you fail to nominate a beneficiary or your nomination has lapsed, your super fund trustee will decide how your benefit is paid.

If you have dependents, there’s a fair chance you hold life insurance (inside or outside your super fund) that will provide for them financially if you die or are unable to work. This lump sum payment can be paid to the policy owner, a named beneficiary or to your estate, depending on how the policy was established. 

Check with your financial adviser or the company supplying your insurance to ensure it will provide for the people you want it to.

Some jointly owned assets

Assets that you own with another person will automatically pass to the surviving owner, regardless of the terms of your will. Things commonly held in joint arrangements include the family home and bank accounts shared between spouses.

Assets in trust

If you’re a trustee or beneficiary of a discretionary family trust, any funds you hold there will remain in the trust when you pass away.

Making sure your wishes are carried out efficiently 

If your affairs are complex, it’s especially important to ensure all your wishes are properly documented. A financial adviser can work with you and your solicitor to ensure the right assets go to the right people in a tax-effective way.

As part of the planning process, you may like to appoint an executor to carry out the instructions in your will. This takes the pressure off your loved ones in what can be very a difficult time. 

Organising your estate may not be easy or particularly comfortable but planning ahead makes it easier for your loved ones to settle your affairs when the time comes.