Having your estate in order is one of the most caring and helpful things you can do for your family. When you pass away, your family and friends should be able to easily identify important documents including your Will, contact information, and your wishes in respect of funeral and burial arrangements.
This list sets out the six most important things you can do during your lifetime, to make the eventual administration of your estate easier and less stressful for your loved ones.
1. Make a Will and Powers of Attorney
This might seem obvious, but preparing a Will gives you the opportunity to state whom you want to inherit and administer your estate following your passing. In the absence of a Will, your estate would be dealt with in accordance with the laws of intestacy in your State, and these may not accurately reflect your wishes.
Having a Will can also help minimise the likelihood of someone contesting your estate and provides clarity around who is responsible for making important decisions after you pass away. Whilst any estate can be challenged, having a Will creates a clear record of what your intentions were and what you wanted to happen in the event of your death. If you don't have a Will, there may be disagreements about who plans the funeral, who keeps your ashes (if your preference is to be cremated), and who is ultimately responsible for applying for the legal authority to deal with your Estate.
Safewill is Australia’s leading online Will-writing platform, and you can start the process in just a few clicks here. Our modern approach to Wills means that you can start, complete, and update your bespoke Will anytime, anywhere with no lawyers’ fees, no hidden costs, and no appointments. Just smart Wills to suit your life.
It’s also helpful if you prepare a Power of Attorney during your lifetime. Your Will and your Powers of Attorney function at different times to carry out and safeguard your wishes. A Power of Attorney document is different to a Will because it sets out who is responsible for handling your financial, personal, and medical affairs whilst you are alive, but if you are incapacitated through injury or illness. Your Will, on the other hand, only comes into effect once you die.
You can create a Power of Attorney online with Safewill here.
2. Make a list of what you own, and what you owe
Whilst what you own and owe might change during your life, it can be incredibly helpful to create an initial list around the same time that you make your Will. With the Safewill platform, this can be done in the ‘Assets’ module. You’re able to create a convenient list for your Executor to use as a starting guide when administering your estate.
When someone passes away and the Executor of their Will is applying for a Grant, most States and Territories require an ‘inventory’ to be filed of what the person owned during their lifetime. The application must also set out what debts the person had, which were outstanding as of the date of their passing.
Information you could record in such a list includes (but is not limited to):
It’s recommended that this list is stored with your Will, so it’s easy for your Executor to identify following your passing. This information can then be used by your Executor to make enquiries with the relevant asset holders and will assist with the preparation of the inventory for Probate.
You may also wish to record details of how to find and access items that are important to you, such as family heirlooms, photographs, social media log-ins or even your record collection.
3. Pre-plan your funeral
One of the trickiest and most stressful things to arrange following a death in the family is the funeral. Various family members and friends may have differing opinions about whether you would have preferred a religious or non-religious service, to be buried or cremated, or may even disagree on topics as straightforward as music.
Pre-planning your funeral, and making your preference for burial or cremation clear, means there’s nothing left for your loved ones to do but celebrate your life in the way you want them to. Whether you want your coffin carried out to your favourite song, a certain food served after the ceremony, or to be farewelled in the most environmentally friendly way possible, pre-planning your funeral allows you to decide how you want to say goodbye.
Our affiliate company Safewill Cremations offers pre-paid cremation services that can save your family thousands of dollars, and hours of stress, when the time comes.
4. Make a list of memberships and subscriptions
Like creating a list of what you own and owe, it can be helpful to create a list of what recurring payments you have set up for memberships and subscriptions. After you pass away, these organisations will likely try to keep direct debiting funds from your bank account, until they are notified of your passing and your Executor tells them to stop deducting funds.
By creating a list of active recurring payments, and keeping this up to date, your Executor will easily be able to reach out to each organisation and stop payments following your passing.
Common recurring payments, including memberships and subscriptions, include:
This list can also be helpful if your family wants to donate to a charitable organisation you supported during your lifetime. If there’s a record of a charity you regularly supported, they can reach out to that charity to make a legacy donation in your name, or request attendees at your funeral to donate in your memory.
5. Update your superannuation and life insurance details
If you have superannuation entitlements or a life insurance policy, it’s important to make sure your contact details are correct with your super fund or insurer.
After someone passes away, these organisations usually require details such as the full legal name of the account holder, their address and date of birth before they will release important information to an Executor or next of kin.
If personal or contact information is incorrect or out of date with a super fund or insurer, it can make it more complicated for the right accounts or policies to be identified and might delay the claims process.
It’s also important to make sure you have a valid beneficiary nomination for each of your superannuation and life insurance accounts. These accounts don’t automatically form part of your assets for the purposes of your Will, so having a nomination on file makes it much easier for your Executor, or your family, to deal with the financial payout. If you don’t have a nomination, it may create delays as the superannuation fund or life insurer need to go through a lengthy process to determine who is correctly entitled.
6. Keep copies of important documents
Whilst it might seem enough to prepare the above documents and ‘set and forget’, their usefulness is reduced if the Executor appointed in your Will or Attorney appointed in your Power of Attorney can’t locate the original signed documents.
Many people choose to store their original documents in a home safe, or in a safe custody packet at their local bank branch.
Ultimately, where you store your important documents, and whom you provide copies to, is entirely up to you. It’s generally recommended that the Executor of your Will, or Attorney appointed in your Power of Attorney, are told where to find these documents so they can be located easily if required.
Get started today with Safewill to make end-of-life planning effortless.
If a loved one has passed away and you require assistance with applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, Safewill Legal can assist. Our team is local and ready to provide you with complimentary guidance about where to start. Start a live chat or call us on 1300 942 586.