Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, you are never too old to get excited about the magic of this time of year. Even once your children are all grown up and no longer believe in Santa, there is nothing like seeing their faces light up when they see what presents have been left for them under the tree.
Such was not the case when a client approached me to provide a slightly unconventional Christmas gift for their 21 year old daughter.
Please see letter below.
I trust this is the first time you have received a letter from a lawyer under the Christmas tree, or hopefully at all, and opening this envelope may not fill you with quite the same level of joy and excitement as unwrapping a box containing the latest iPhone or a Tiffany bracelet.
Your Mum and Dad have engaged me to create an ‘estate plan’ for you. What this involves is preparing a Will directing how your property is to be distributed when you die, appointing replacement decision makers under enduring power of attorney and medical treatment decision maker documents, and making sure your superannuation benefits are directed where you want them to go.
Now making a Will might seem like something just for old people, and unfortunately in Australia it is often only once people are confronted with their own mortality that they bother dealing with these issues. However, even a young adult living carefree and at home, should have an estate plan in place.
Firstly, you have more assets to your name than you think. There is super and your life insurance through your super, which amounts to some $235,000. There is the $25,000 car you received on your 18th birthday. There is the $50,400 in your bank account accumulated through monthly contributions from your parents since you were born. There are significant unpaid present entitlements owing to you from the family trust. And there is the $93,000 share portfolio you received from your Grandfather when he died.
Secondly, if you do not have a Will you cannot control who receives your assets when you die. The laws of intestacy will provide they go to your parents by default, but it is possible your boyfriend of 3 years could substantiate a claim as your ‘domestic partner’ given the number of nights you spend at each other’s homes. My understanding is that it is actually your siblings you would like to benefit from your estate, and so this would need to be provided for in a Will.
Thirdly, it makes for a much more seamless administration process if you appoint key people you trust to look after your affairs under your Will if you die, or to make financial, personal or medical treatment decisions for you if you are incapacitated.
And finally, there are some things you own that may not be worth a lot from a monetary perspective, but you would like to go to particular people when you die. For example, you may want to ensure your gorgeous black lab Shadow is looked after by your Aunty Lucy. You may want to give the necklace you received from your Grandma to your sister Claire. And you may want to ensure that decisions about your photos, music and other digital assets are made by your boyfriend.
Please accept this gift with the heartfelt and loving intention with which it is given, to give you and your family the peace of mind that if something happens to you (touch wood) they can carry out your wishes.
I look forward to meeting with you in the New Year to discuss your instructions…