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Travel Planning Checklist – Wills Edition

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By Rebecca Tetlow

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to spend time talking to people about their travel plans. As winter settles on Canberra, many of my clients will soon be heading away in search of warmer climates – or in the case of the ski crowd, colder climates. Whether its cruising around castles and cathedrals in Europe, safaris on the Serengeti or relaxing on a tropical beach, I’m always keen to hear the details of holiday itineraries.

Upcoming travel is a common reason that prompts people into making a Will. Although air travel does not pose any greater risk than many other daily activities (at least according to my pilot friend), it nevertheless often gets people thinking about their Will. I take the view that any time is a good time to consider your Will, so why not add estate planning to the travel planning checklist.

If you are currently counting down for a holiday, here are a few things to think about –

1. Do you have a Will?

Having a valid Will ensures that your assets will go to your chosen beneficiaries after your death. If you die without a Will, your assets will be divided according to a set legal formula. This can have harsh and unexpected results for your family and loved ones.

Even if your assets would be legally divided between your intended beneficiaries, dealing with an intestate estate can be much more stressful, time-consuming and expensive.

2. Is your Will up to date?

If you have made a Will in the past, it’s a good idea to dig out a copy and read through the Will to make sure it’s still up to date. Some issues to keep an eye out for include:

  • Are the named executors and guardians still suitable for that role?
  • Are there any beneficiaries who you would like to add or remove from you existing Will?
  • Does the Will give away assets that you no longer own?
  • Have you set up any entities such as companies or trusts or a self-managed superannuation fund since you last made your Will?
  • Has your relationship status changed? If you have married or entered a civil union since you last made your Will, you may have inadvertently revoked your earlier Will.

In addition to considering your Will, you should also have a look at your superannuation nominations to make sure they are current and appropriate. For many superannuation funds, Binding Death Benefit Nominations expire after 3 years so check your statement or contact your super fund to check whether your nominations are up to date.

3. Does your executor know where your Will is?

If you’ve gone to the trouble of making a Will, then it’s important that your executor knows where to locate the Will in the event of your death. It’s wise to ask your chosen executors if they are willing to act in that role and to tell them where the original Will is kept.

You may also want to create a list of other important information that the executor should know in the event of your death. This may include information such as contact details for family members (if they would not otherwise know), details of your assets and liabilities, the location of important documents and passwords.

4. What about Enduring Power of Attorney?

A Will comes into effect after your death while an Enduring Power of Attorney operates during your lifetime. An Enduring Power of Attorney gives authority to your named attorney(s) to make decisions for you.

Depending on the terms of the Enduring Power of Attorney, it may give authority for someone to manage your finances while you are overseas. Alternatively, the Enduring Power of Attorney could specify that it only takes effect if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. In any event, having an Enduring Power of Attorney in place is a good idea in case you suffer a serious illness or accident while you are travelling.

In amongst finding your passport and researching the things to see and do at your next destination, it’s also a smart idea to consider your estate planning. If you need to make a Will or Enduring Power of Attorney, or get legal advice about whether your Will is up to date, please contact the dedicated Wills and Estates Team at DDCS Lawyers by emailing estates@ddcslawyers.com.au or calling (02) 6212 7600.

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