Do your savings have an afterlife?
PEOPLE'S attitude to money is amazing. They'll spend most of their lives working hard for it, worrying about it, and fighting over it, yet many won't give more than a passing thought to what will happen to it when they die.
Nearly 60 per cent of people die without a will, and most of the remainder seem content to use a "do it yourself" job from the local stationery shop, or grab the first free offer they can find.
This is an unfortunate attitude because the cost of having no will, or a badly drawn will, is far higher than the legal fees to get it right in the first place. One of the most common mistakes is for a couple receiving Centrelink benefits to leave all their assets to the survivor in the event of the death of one of them. This is because the Centrelink income and assets tests are different for couples and singles.
A couple have their own home as well as a car and personal effects worth $50,000. They also have superannuation, bank accounts and other investments worth $650,000. As a couple they are entitled to a pension of approximately $394 a fortnight.
If one of them dies, and all assets are left to the survivor, that person will be over the limit for the single pensioner assets test and will lose their pension entirely. That’s the ultimate double whammy – losing your partner and your pension simultaneously. If the will had left part of the financial assets to their children the survivor would have retained a part pension.
Almost everybody you know will have some story about hassles caused by a badly drawn will, or worse still no will at all. That’s a pity because it doesn’t take much preparation to stop these types of problems before they arise. Just make sure you involve your solicitor, your financial advisor and your accountant when drawing up or reviewing a will – each is a specialist in a different but very important area.
Noel Whittaker is a director of Whittaker Macnaught Pty Ltd. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.