Retirement / Estate Planning

Changes & Uncertainty

Retirement can be both a time for exciting new changes in your life and a time of uncertainty about how you will manage your income and expenses. You may be looking forward to spending more time on those things that you have dreamed of, such as travel, leisure pursuits and family time. But how will you plan your income flow and spending? How will you make sure you retain independence without running out of money?

Planning

Planning ahead is a way to maintain balance between your lifestyle and your financial resources – and the earlier you start the better. Perhaps more than any other stage in life, the decisions you make (or the ones you neglect) in planning your retirement years can make a huge difference to your retirement lifestyle.

Retirement Goals

Some experienced know-how on the complex issues surrounding retirement finances is where we can help. We can guide you through the social security, taxation and investment aspects and help you to reach your retirement goals.

The best time to start planning retirement is actually long before you get there. If you are aged 55 or over there are specific opportunities in the tax system, which allow you to structure your finances to potentially save thousands of dollars in tax. This is known as a transition to retirement (TTR) strategy.

A TTR strategy involves you drawing upon part or all of your superannuation as an income stream through a TTR pension, while you divert more of your earned income toward your super. The strategy aims to have a neutral impact on take home income now, but a significant reduction in the tax you pay and the growth of your super. Alternatively, you can use this strategy to help fund a reduction in working hours, so that you ease into retirement many years before you actually take the final step.

Our clients find that our sound retirement advice opens a window of opportunity in the lead up to their retirement.

Once you reach full retirement, your strategy for prolonging and maximising retirement income becomes paramount. Life expectancy is increasing and you could easily be relying on your income to last 20 years or more. It is critical to coordinate the taxation, social security and investment aspects in a carefully structured plan.

Our role is to act as your guide and mentor through what can be a daunting change in your life. The sooner you start, the greater scope you have to utilise all the strategies available to you and the results we can achieve may surprise you!

An important part of most people’s retirement income strategy involves the use of Centrelink entitlements, such as the age pension.

Understanding your entitlements can be a complex operation, which takes into consideration your home ownership situation, your investment assets and your income flow. It is important to coordinate any application for benefits in tandem with your investment planning, so that you are not missing out on benefit payments.

Central to the age pension system are the two means tests that are applied to your assessment – the income test and assets test. You can benefit from our intimate knowledge of this system and how these tests are applied, in order to create the ideal income situation. Ongoing management is essential to make sure changes in your circumstances are monitored and your entitlements are maintained.

ESTATE PLANNING

The term ‘estate planning’ for many people is unknown territory and perceived as simply the writing of a Will. The reality is that anyone who is earning an income or has any assets has a need for some level of estate planning advice.

Even at a young age you may have specific wishes for the way you want your assets divided if something unexpected happens. When children enter the picture, your needs may change and your final wishes may need more sophisticated estate planning consideration.

As your assets grow in later life and you may welcome grandchildren to your family, your needs can become more complex and need more careful attention and planning.

The legal and financial issues involved in making things work the way you want can become very complex. Our expert advice when it comes to planning the right structures to manage your estate can be invaluable in maintaining family harmony, reducing tax liabilities and making sure your wishes are carried out the way you really want them to be.

A will helps you express your wishes in a concrete way so that your loved ones avoid uncertainty and legal complications when you die. It is the document which captures your wishes on what will happen to your estate, but, although it is an essential document it is not always a definitive way to manage what you want done with your estate.

Without a will, you leave yourself open to government discretion on how your assets are distributed and how your children are looked after if they are under 18. While the family’s best interests may be considered, the actual outcomes could be very different to what you would personally choose. The lack of a will can cause delays in settling your estate.

Your superannuation and life insurance can be two of the largest assets in your estate, but their distribution upon death is not necessarily covered by your will.

If you own a life insurance policy, proceeds can go into your estate or be apportioned to nominated beneficiaries, depending on how it has been set up. Superannuation death benefits can only be paid to your estate or to ‘dependents’ and in many cases, members’ death benefit nominations are not binding on a super fund trustee. Careful management of how you set up your nominations can avoid trustee discretion to distribute funds.

It’s your money, so don’t leave it to chance. Let us help you structure your estate the way you want to.

Depending on your situation, you may be able to use legal instruments, such as testamentary trusts, discretionary trusts or even a self-managed super fund to more effectively manage distribution and control of assets, rather than simply distributing directly through a will. This is particularly useful if you want to ensure that younger family members are restricted in their use of your assets until they are old enough to deal with them responsibly. They can also be used to prevent the complications that can arise from blended families or estranged family members.

Understanding tax implications and structuring affairs to manage tax can be an important part of estate planning. An asset you leave for one child may be subject to capital gains tax, whereas another asset left for another child may be exempt, unintentionally resulting in different final amounts to each child. Beneficiaries who are on government assistance may find benefits are affected by inheritance payments.

There can also be tax implications for your superannuation benefits and associated insurance benefits held in your super, depending on how benefits are paid and whether beneficiaries are dependents or non-dependents. All these issues are much better when considered at the planning stage rather than waiting for them to become a problem when it is too late.

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