All about Wills and Probate
By Robert Wright /May 25,2022/
Probate is the legal process that occurs when dealing with a loved one’s will after their death. It can be difficult to know what’s involved with the process and the questions to ask.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process that makes sure the instructions in a will can be followed. It involves proving and registering a will in the Supreme Court and, if successful, will result in a ‘grant of probate’.
What’s a grant of probate?
A grant of probate means the will is recognised as legally valid and enables the executor (the person dealing with the estate) to distribute assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. Most financial institutions require a grant of probate before they can release accounts and funds to anyone other than account holders.
What to do if a family member passes
When a family member passes away, if you’re the next of kin then you need to determine whether they made a will. If they haven’t, they are said to have died “intestate”.
In this situation, an application needs to be made to the court for “Letters of Administration” authorising a person to distribute the assets of the deceased family member’s estate, the law will set out how their estate can be distributed, if not, there’s no guarantee that your loved one’s wishes will be honoured.
What’s a will?
A will is a legal document that outlines what happens to a person’s possessions and assets when they die. However, a will isn’t legally binding on its own — there are steps that must be taken to make sure the will is valid, just as there are steps that family members can take if they want to contest the will.
At its most basic a will must be:
- in writing
- signed by the will maker
- witnessed by at least two adults (a beneficiary should not witness a will. If they do, they may lose their entitlements under that will)
- made by someone of testamentary capacity.
Ensuring a will is properly made and signed can be very complex and it is always a good idea to ensure a lawyer is involved.
What’s testamentary capacity?
Testamentary capacity means that someone’s in a fit state of mind to legally understand what they’re doing. If these things are all done, then the will can be used to help divide up the estate.
Life Insurance and probate
Provided you have a named beneficiary with your policy, your life insurance should be easily accessed by your loved ones when the time comes. Life Insurance should be paid directly to the beneficiary and avoid having to be distributed through the deceased’s will.
Having your life insurance beneficiaries up to date can help ensure your loved ones are taken care of financially if something were to happen to you.
What happens once probate or the court process are completed?
Once the court process, or probate, is completed and settled, there is then the process of the administration of an estate by the executor or administrator, after the grant of probate or letters of administration have been provided.
This process of administration is something that needs to happen when a family member passes away. This process starts when probate or letters of administration are granted, and finishes when the assets listed in the will are formally handed over to the executors of the estate and distributed.
An estate can be made up of many things, including:
- Real estate
- Income or capital allocated by the will maker
- Cash investments
- Personal property
But doesn’t usually include these items:
- Jointly owned assets that are held as joint tenants – e.g. family home (If the owners are tenants in common, the deceased person’s portion can become part of the estate)
- Super pensions or annuities (except when directed by the member to be paid to the estate)
- Life Insurance where the benefit is paid directly to one or more nominated beneficiaries
Here’s what you need to get started with probate:
- The current and original will
- Original death certificate from the relevant state registry
- The probate application
- Income or capital allocated by the will maker; and/or
- Lodgement fee
Probate runs through the court system in each state, and executors or administrators of the estate need to swear to the court that they’ll distribute the will as instructed. It is important to consider getting a lawyer who can help you with the probate process.
What happens if someone contests a will?
If a family member wants to contest a will because they feel that it isn’t fair or feel that something has been left out, they need to do it in the probate stage. If someone challenges the will then the court will hold off on granting probate until the contest is sorted.
As the law in this area is very complex and can be different depending on where you live, when dealing with a will and estate planning it is always recommended to talk to a lawyer to make sure that the whole process is managed correctly, and the deceased’s wishes are most likely to be fulfilled.
They can guide you through the process, ask questions you may not have considered, and recommend arrangements for a range of scenarios. They can help you prepare your own will, or manage the affairs of a family member.
It also ensures you are getting the right advice from a professional. Being prepared can really save you time and headaches down the line.
Do you value your assets more than yourself?
By Robert Wright /February 18,2022/
Value is a funny thing. One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure, as the old saying goes. The value we place on something tends to be very individual, and is generally a product of many different factors ranging from cultural background and upbringing to personality type and even life stage.
But as much as the way we view value varies from person to person, there are also some common views that tend to draw us together. According to research commissioned by TAL, Australians are seven times more likely to name their possessions as their most valuable asset, rather than themselves.
The research revealed almost all Australians find it difficult to understand their own value. As a result, we tend to base our self-valuation on the amount we earn and own, while neglecting the intangible things such as the value of the social and emotional contributions we make to the lives of our loved ones.
The things we value will change over the course of our lives
Unsurprisingly, the research showed that throughout every generation, the things we place value on will change as we move through different life stages.
For those in their 20s and 30s, building a rewarding and successful career tends to be a strong focus, whereas those approaching or enjoying retirement tend to be more focused on staying healthy and supporting loved ones with practical tasks.
But where it gets interesting is when we look at how Australians felt their changing views on value over time had impacted the decisions they made along the way.
The long-term impact of our views on value
According to the research, the majority (78%) of Australians undervalue themselves and their contributions to others which over time has led to some regrets, including poor life decisions relating to their long-term wellbeing, as well as actions around protecting what they value.
The common views on value that draw us together
Despite our views on value changing as we move through different life stages, the research also found there are key areas of our lives which we are each underestimating when it comes to understanding our personal value, and this can subsequently have an impact on the choices we make.
In fact, Australians tend to fall into one of four different personal value profile types, which will influence the things they value and choices they make across their lives:
Gregarious Go-Getters (24% of Australians) – these people generally strive to have a successful career and are more likely to undervalue the importance of taking care of their health.
Conscientious Carers (28% of Australians) – these people highly value the emotional support they give to their loved ones but may question the decisions they make in life and sometimes wish they did things differently.
Family-Focused Optimists (32% of Australians) – these people tend to take a family orientated approach to life. They take care of their health but place less importance on their career than other areas of their lives.
Ambitious Organisers (16% of Australians) – these people are more likely to sacrifice their long-term happiness to focus on a successful career and tend to underestimate the value of their emotional support and time to loved ones.
So why does the way we view value matter?
With the research showing that many Australians believe underestimating their own value has led to some regrettable life decisions, it’s important to consider how your present choices may impact you in the future and the things you will come to value over time.
After all, you are your most valuable asset – in every hour of every day, month and year of your life, especially to your loved ones.
Why insurance is important: real benefits for you and your family
By Robert Wright /June 11,2021/
Insurance plays a central role in providing financial security for you and your family when it’s needed most.
You insure your car and your home. But nothing is more important than your life and your ability to make a living. So it makes good sense to insure your greatest asset – you!
As we move through life, find a partner, raise a family, and maybe start a business, the importance of insurance in a long term plan increases. That’s because insurance is all about providing a financial safety net that helps you to take care of yourself and those you love when you need it the most.
5 reasons why insurance matters
Why is insurance important? Let’s look at five key reasons.
1. Protection for you and your family
Your family depend on your financial support to enjoy a decent standard of living, which is why insurance is especially important once you start a family. It means the people who matter most in your life may be protected from financial hardship if the unexpected happens.
2. Reduce stress during difficult times
None of us know what lies around the corner. Unforeseen tragedies such as illness, injury or permanent disability, even death – can leave you and your family facing tremendous emotional stress, and even grief. With insurance in place, you or your family’s financial stress will be reduced, and you can focus on recovery and rebuilding your lives.
3. To enjoy financial security
No matter what your financial position is today, an unexpected event can see it all unravel very quickly. Insurance offers a payout so that if there is an unforeseen event you and your family can hopefully continue to move forward.
4. Peace of mind
No amount of money can replace your health and wellbeing – or the role you play in your family. But you can at least have peace of mind knowing that if anything happened to you, your family’s financial security is assisted by insurance.
5. A legacy to leave behind
A lump sum death benefit can secure the financial future for your children and protect their standard of living.
Tony and Karen – Young Family
The following scenario is illustrative only to demonstrate the importance of insurance and is not based on an actual event.
Tony (34) and Karen (33) recently upgraded to a new home to allow their twin boys Nicholas and Rocky (aged 4) more room to play. This also meant taking on a bigger mortgage on one income, as Karen is a homemaker. To protect the family, Tony decided to take out Income Protection Insurance.
During a simple Saturday afternoon game of backyard cricket with the twins, Tony tripped and broke his leg. What appeared to be a simple break was more complicated than initially realised and Tony required several reconstructive operations followed by physiotherapy.
It meant Tony was out of the workforce for over six months, and while his employer was sympathetic, Tony only had two weeks of sick leave owing to him.
Thankfully, Tony’s Income Protection insurance meant he received a stream of payments equal to 80% of his regular wage (including super). The couple needed to tighten their belts a little until Tony was back on his feet but they were able to keep up with their home loan repayments, which would not otherwise have been possible without their Income Protection cover.
How to save for retirement in your 40s
By Robert Wright /March 10,2021/
Let’s start with the good news: studies show that your income peaks between the ages of 45 and 54. You’ll potentially have more money than ever – but you may also have unexpected or unwelcome expenses, like divorce. At this age you might also put retirement planning on the backburner in favour of more pressing financial commitments, such as your mortgage and kids’ school fees. Use these potential life changes as the impetus to re-evaluate your assets and income, and look at how you can maximise savings for your retirement.
In your 40s, retirement age is still some 20 years away and, while that seems like plenty of time, your decisions now can help secure your financial future. Read on to find out how to save for retirement in your 40s.
Calculate how much you’ll need for retirement
According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, by the time you reach 49 you’ll have between around $87,500 and $145,000 in your super account. The same group estimates singles will need retirement savings of $545,000 for a comfortable retirement, while couples will need combined retirement savings of $640,000. Are you on track to getting there in the next couple of decades?
Set realistic financial goals
While your financial goals in your 20s and 30s may have been idealistic, as you get closer to retirement, they should become realistic. It’s time to develop a clear plan for your savings, with achievable short, mid and long-term targets in working towards your overall retirement goal.
Live within your means
Your 40s are typically peak earning years, but with Australia in the grip of a recession, many things aren’t typical right now. One thing that’s changed is where we do our work. At the start of the coronavirus epidemic, more than 10.5 million Aussies swiftly transitioned to working from home, and many people are yet to go back to the workplace. While there might have been some initial expenses to set up a suitable home workspace, there’s also a reduction in day-to-day costs like commuting. Consider funnelling any of this cash into your savings instead, to actively save for your retirement in your 40s
Become more mindful around spending on big-ticket items as well – before a splurge, try taking a day (or a week) to give yourself time to think about how much you really need the item. You’ll be surprised at how often you decide it’s not essential to your life, and the money you save can be added to your retirement savings instead.
Review your investments
Your super might be ticking along, but what about other investments? It’s not too late to start saving and investing. Work out what style of investor you are so you have a better understanding of how comfortable you are with risk. Then talk to a financial adviser about creating a portfolio that suits you, which might include property, shares and other investment classes.
Aim to be debt free
Entering retirement with debt means juggling repayments with a high interest rate, which will eat into your retirement income.
To enter retirement debt free, look at paying off your home loan before you retire. Preparing for retirement in your 40s might mean getting a better deal on interest rates or creating a budget that allows you to make extra contributions to your mortgage, above your minimum monthly repayments.
Make sure you pay off your credit card balance in full each month so you don’t accumulate interest. Be cautious about borrowing money that you won’t be able to pay off in a short period of time.
Update your insurance
For many people, COVID-19 has been a strong reminder of how much we value good health and wellbeing – and how quickly things can change. Having the right kind of insurance can help create peace of mind when you need it.
Review your private health insurance to make sure it’s still right for your needs, particularly if your circumstances have changed or you have a growing family. Income protection and life insurance help to protect you and your family if you can’t work due to injury or illness, so you can continue to pay the bills without dipping into your savings.
Plan for your kids’ futures
Your kids mean the world to you – we get it. But their education doesn’t have to come at the expense of your retirement. As part of your retirement planning, consider setting up a separate savings account to fund things like your kids’ school and university fees, so you don’t have to dip into your retirement fund for their education.
Show your children how and why you’re cutting back on discretionary spending (meals out, trips to the movies) to make their long-term goals (like getting a job) a priority. You’re never too young to develop a healthy understanding of finances and budgeting.