We never know what lies ahead so whether you’re newly-wed or reaching retirement, you should have a discussion around your wealth transfer plans with your spouse.
Many people view estate planning in isolation and as something that happens after passing away, but it’s actually a key part of a solid financial plan. It’s also not the same as a will. “A will only deals with the individuals wishes whereas estate planning refers to the entire process prior to the will coming into effect,” explains Anton Schoeman, Carrick General Manager: Western Cape. It’s advisable to have this conversation with your partner or spouse to avoid any distressing surprises for your heirs. Here are four important steps to consider:
General Manager: Western Cape
Reflect on your financial goals and objectives
When considering your legacy, consider what drives your financial decisions. What motivates you? How does your current financial plan service these goals? What do you need to amend to make sure they are aligned? What are your charitable intentions? If you are leaving everything to your spouse, have you considered what happens when your spouse passes away? Are you in agreement on what then goes to your heirs? Are there other children involved from previous relationships? It’s important to consider all scenarios.
Be clear on your values
Estate planning is an excellent way to communicate your values and pass them on to your heirs. Are you passionate about education or philanthropy, for example, or do you simply want your heirs to have more opportunities than you did? Do you want to leave enough for your children to get a comfortable start in life or do you want to pass on your wealth in a staggered, structured way, such as in a trust? Do you want to gift any grandchildren? If education is important to you, would funding studies be part of your values-based estate planning? Or perhaps an heir is planning to start their own business and you would prefer to set money aside for an agreed upon entrepreneurial initiative.
Do an inventory of assets and update the paperwork
In addition to joint assets that your spouse is aware of and has access to, do you have any other policies or investments that you may have taken out before you got married or that your parents have possibly bequeathed to you? Review and update all documents to make sure all assets can be transferred or distributed to your chosen beneficiaries, including life insurance, retirement investments, family business, property, vehicles, and personal items of value such as art, jewellery or collector’s items.
Review your plan regularly
You can generally review your estate plan every three to five years, says Schoeman, but a change in wealth or life circumstances could necessitate updating your estate plan more regularly. Ideally you should consult with a wealth, legal, and tax advisor when you draw up your plan and keep them notified as your financial situation evolves and they will keep you updated if any changes from a tax or legal perspective apply.