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Estate planning considerations

Estate planning is a complex area which requires careful consideration of tax implications.



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Many issues that affect the distribution of assets to beneficiaries will need to be considered before an individual dies, to ensure undesirable tax consequences are avoided for both the individual and their potential beneficiaries. These include the timing on the transfer of the assets, potential gifts, transfer duties and the use of testamentary trusts.


While gifts can be made as a part of estate planning before an individual dies, remember that if the gift is an asset (e.g. property, crypto assets, shares, etc), CGT will apply at the time of the gift (and the donor may have insufficient funds to pay the tax).


Another consideration in terms of the timing of transfers (in particular, of property) is the transfer duty involved at the state or territory level. For example, in New South Wales, if property is received from a deceased estate in accordance with the terms of a will, the beneficiary will pay transfer duty at a concessional rate of $100. However, if the transfer occurs before an individual’s death or not in accordance with a will, normal rates of transfer duty will apply. In that scenario, it would be better to wait to transfer the property. The rules for each state and territory differ, so it’s important to check before making decisions.


Superannuation benefits are tax to non-dependent beneficiaries – taking pensions before death are tax effective, although introduce complications in managing cash flow.


For individuals looking to exert more control after their own death, or protection or flexibility for the family, a testamentary trust may be one way of providing a flexible and tax-efficient way to manage and distribute the assets of the estate to beneficiaries. Generally, the terms and conditions of the testamentary trust are outlined in the will of the deceased, including the appointment of trustees and beneficiaries and how the trust assets are to be managed and distributed. The trust itself comes into existence upon the death of the person making the will, and it is separate from the deceased estate for legal and tax purposes.


However, establishing and managing testamentary trusts can involve significant costs, and there is a requirement to carefully draft the trust deed, so it includes clear instructions for the establishment and operation of the testamentary trust, in order to avoid possible future disputes. There may also be ongoing legal, accounting and administrative expenses, making testamentary trusts a complex route to head down.  Offsetting this are family flexibility, asset protection and tax savings, which can be significant.


The specific tax implications of estate planning can vary widely depending on individual circumstances and the state or territory in which an individual lived. This is a complex area where seeking professional advice tailored to the situation is crucial.


 


 


 


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