An estate plan involves more than signing a Will and leaving it in a safe place.

An effective estate plan requires consideration of your assets, family and intentions as a whole.

In this article, we look at some common misconceptions about Wills and estate planning (also called succession planning).

I have a Will – that is all I need

A Will is a great start to planning your estate, however a Will alone does not:

  • deal with your superannuation and any life insurance policies (see below);
  • appoint a trusted person to look after your financial and property affairs during your lifetime but if you are incapacitated or away;
  • appoint a guardian to make health and lifestyle choices on your behalf during your lifetime but if you are incapacitated, taking into consideration your principles and values;
  • maximise the value of your estate through effective tax planning, to improve the net outcome for your beneficiaries;
  • minimise uncertainty and expense for your family by reducing the likelihood of a family provision claim;
  • provide for business succession planning, or if required the winding up of a business;
  • deals with any trusts you control during your lifetime.

Multiple legal documents form part of your overall estate plan.

Estate planning is not concerned only with what happens after you die.  Think about what happens if you are suddenly and unexpectedly incapacitated and unable to manage your affairs. Estate planning includes appointing an attorney with the right powers to manage your financial and healthcare concerns.

Only the rich need an estate plan

For a start, with superannuation and life insurance, there is likely more value in your estate than you realise.

Regardless of your financial status though, an appropriate estate plan ensures:

  • your superannuation and life insurance is properly considered;
  • a trusted person is appointed to administer your affairs if you are incapacitated or when you die;
  • your hard-earned property passes to beneficiaries chosen by you and not others;
  • the gifts and benefits you leave to your loved ones through are maximised with appropriate taxation strategies.

I can leave joint property to whomever I wish

Property owned jointly with another does not form part of your estate. The right of survivorship means that upon the death of an owner of an asset held as joint tenants that asset automatically vests in the surviving owner. It does not matter what your Will says.

Most couples own their home jointly.  This means that most couple’s Wills are will not have an impact on the ownership of the home if one of them dies.

For spouses and de facto partners, this may be ideal as many would simply wish the surviving partner to benefit. However, there are many situations where joint ownership is not appropriate such as blended families where there is an intention to make a gift to children from a prior relationship.

Superannuation forms part of my estate

Superannuation does not automatically form part of your estate assets for distribution under your Will. Superannuation death benefits, comprising the superannuation account balance and any life insurance payments, are paid to a ‘dependant’ determined by the fund trustee, or in accordance with a Binding Death Benefit Nomination (‘BDBN’).

In most cases, fund members can nominate their intended beneficiaries by completing a BDBN. Without a valid BDBN, the beneficiaries are paid to a dependant decided by the trustee or otherwise, to your estate. This may not reflect the deceased member’s intentions.

Fund members should also consider the way death benefits are taxed in the hands of the nominated beneficiary. Essentially, a spouse or partner will receive death benefits tax free. Adult children will be subject to tax, which can be up to 32%.

I need to update my Will whenever if I have more children, or move or acquire new assets

A well-drafted Will provides flexibility and can account for the purchase or sale of assets, new family members or the loss of loved ones and marriage or divorce.

You still need to review your Will regularly and always when your personal and financial circumstances change significantly.

There is no point to a Will – it can be challenged.

The right to challenge a Will is limited to certain people.  This varies from State to State. Other than NSW, the only assets which are vulnerable to a claim are those held personally.  Assets not vulnerable to a claim include superannuation, life insurance and trust assets.

This means your estate can be structured to minimise the likelihood or impact of a claim.


Effective estate planning takes time and careful consideration. If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 07 5443 4744 or