The short answer is now!

Many people leave their estate planning until the later stages in life, mistakenly thinking they do not need to deal with something unless there is immediate cause for concern.

We sometimes hear comments from our estate planning clients in their 20s, 30s and 40s like “I know I’m young, but I thought I would just do it” or “I guess you wouldn’t have many clients our age?”. There seems to be a consensus in the community that you only need to think about estate planning when you are “old enough” or if you have received bad news.

We should all have our documents in order. There are certain life events that increase the importance of having an estate plan in place.

Here are 6 significant occasions that should remind you to give your lawyer a call:

  1. You are buying your first home.

With housing affordability being an issue, people are buying property later and later – all the more reason to think about who you want to leave your newly purchased home to!

When you are a property owner, the game changes. If something happens to you, whether temporarily or long term, and you are not able to manage your finances, you want the right people to have the right tools to deal with your property, your insurances and your mortgage.

If your property needed to be sold and you weren’t able to sign the contract, if you have a valid Power of Attorney, your Attorney will be able to act on your behalf.

If you die and you own property, a Grant of Probate will be needed before the property can be sold or transferred. Having a Will in place makes this a much easier process.

  1. You are engaged or just married.

Marriage revokes a Will! *

* Unless your Will includes a contemplation of marriage clause.

People are also getting married later in life. It might be the case that you have each built up your assets separately – would you want to leave them everything you have? Or would you not be comfortable leaving them everything if you die only after a year of marriage. Maybe you want your parents or your siblings to receive something too?

Perhaps you have children from a previous relationship. It you get married and then die without a Will, legislation sets out how your estate would be divided, and it might not be what you want.

  1. You are expecting!

Your world is about to change. It is the perfect time to think about the life and legacy you want to build.

The joys of parenthood are often balanced with constant worries. Getting clear on who would assist in an emergency, who would look after your kids if you weren’t around, and knowing a plan is in place should the worst happen will be a huge weight off your shoulders, allowing you to spend less time worrying and more quality time with the family.

  1. You are planning an overseas holiday.

You are going away, you have bought your flights, booked your hotel, paid for your travel insurance, found your passport, but do you have your Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Care Directive in place?

If you’re stranded overseas and, in a pickle, having someone back home with the ability to assist you with your financial and legal affairs might just save the day.

  1. You’ve received an inheritance.

If you have lost a parent or grandparent and received an inheritance, the best way to honour them and their gift is to make sure you handle their gift responsibly and seek legal and financial advice.

Receiving an inheritance can significantly change your financial situation. Updating your Will ensures that these new assets are distributed according to your wishes. Plus, it’s a chance to reassess and adjust any other parts of your Will in light of life’s ever-changing circumstances.

  1. You’re separating.

If you have divorced or are divorcing, you definitely want to update your Will, enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Care Directive. If your spouse was your go-to-person, you might have appointed them in those documents and should update them without delay. It’s very rare that anyone would want their ex to continue to have power to access finances or to make end-of-life decisions on your behalf.

While in South Australia divorce revokes clauses in your Will relating to your former spouse as an executor or beneficiary, you should still update your Will to appoint people in their place. If you have separated but not yet divorced, updating your Will ensures that your ex-spouse does not unintentionally benefit from any provisions made when you were together. It is a proactive step to reflect your new life and protect the interests of those you care about most.

Sometimes it takes a bad experience with your parents’ legal affairs, or a diagnosis to make you serious about getting your affairs in order. We encourage you to take the reins and get everything in order while things are good, so that the path ahead is clear, and your family and friends have the power to help you when needed.