Author: Andrew Wem, Wealth Adviser & Lending Specialist

As we get older, it becomes more important than ever to have your assets structured correctly. This does not only ensure that they are protected and preserved for you and your loved ones but also prevents potential issues and costs associated with your assets in the future.

This week I will explore some of the ways you can use Estate Planning to protect and preserve your assets.

As we have previously discussed one of the ways to reduce the costs of aged care is to reduce your assets so your daily “Means Tested Fee” (MTF) is as low as possible. This can be achieved through the following:

  1. Gifting your assets
  2. Changing the ownership
  3. Use your ‘Will ‘ to direct assets of a loved one to a beneficiary

Gifting Asset

 

Gifting

We discussed this in one of our previous articles. However, in summary, gifting can prove to be very limiting and unless you are doing this more than five (5) years ahead of time, you may be penalised for many years.

 


changing the ownership of assets

Changing the ownership of Assets

Provided you planned this ahead of time and you have the ability to re-structure your Will, this method can be very effective in maintaining the Age Pension and reducing your MTF’s.

Please take note that this is not about changing the name on the title of your home to your children, rather this is about changing how it is owned or changing a bank account from joint names to one of your names.


Principal Residence

Generally, these are owned by a couple in “joint names” and when a partner dies, the surviving partner becomes the sole owner of the property. Normally, this does not present any issues in many cases as the home is an exempt asset when receiving aged care pension payments.

However, should you need to sell the home in the future and move into aged care, you will be assessed as having received the entire proceeds of the sale which will be included in your financial assets. So for instance, if your home is worth $1 million you will lose any Age Pension Benefits and your Means Tested Fee will increase.

So what can you do?

If the home ownership is changed to “Tenants in Common” at 50:50 ownership then on the death of your partner their 50% share becomes a willable asset and not considered as a gift.

If this is then ‘Willed’ to your beneficiaries rather than yourself, then on the sale of your home, you will only have 50% of the value or $500,000 and hence potentially still be eligible for some Age Pension and your MTF will be reduced. As this is ‘Willed’ to a beneficiary it is not a “gift” which is very important to note.


Other Assets
Bank accounts, Term Deposits, Cars, Collectables, Investment, Properties and the like

By having the above assets in individual names they will not automatically revert to you and be counted as part of your asset when assessing your costs for Aged Care or other Government benefits.

It is therefore very important to understand your financial position with respect to what assets you need to support your lifestyle should your partner pass away and you need to go into aged care.

For this strategy to work properly, you will need to be of sound mind so you can change your Will. Waiting until you enter into Aged Care before updating your will may be too late due to your medical/mental state.

So by acting sooner rather than later, you can make a huge difference.


Power of Attorney

The importance of having these in place as you get older is often underestimated. As you get older your chances of suffering from Dementia / Alzheimer’s, for instance, increases dramatically.

So, having an Enduring Power of Attorney or Medical Guardianship can help ensure that you stay in control of your living/ lifestyle position by having a trusted person making the decisions for you.

Without one of these in place, should you lose your mental capacity then you may be forced into a situation where the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) makes decisions on where and how you are cared for, which can be at the detriment of your partner. While they do try and appoint family and trusted friends this may not always be possible – so it is best to have this in place well before it is needed.

So if you are unsure of what you can or should do, to protect and preserve your assets then please give me a call to so we can have an initial discussion on this matter.


The Navwealth Solution

By understanding your position properly we can determine what assets each of you may need to continue to live a comfortable life with or without your partner.

We model the cash flow from each asset and the effect of ownership on your entitlements. By doing so, you can have a clear view of how each asset and its ownership affect your situation when either you or your partner passes away so you can make a sound and informed decision on how best to structure your assets.

Furthermore, we also work closely with your family/beneficiaries so they too can understand the strategy and the role they have in making sure all of this works well.

This is essential in reducing any issues/disputes down the track and ensuring that we can work out the best asset and cash flow structure for when one of you passes away.

The overarching benefit is to make sure you are in the best possible position to afford the best care possible whilst preserving your assets for the benefit of your loved ones.

For more information or to discuss Aged Care needs for you or a loved one, please contact Andrew Wem, an accredited Aged Care Specialist Adviser, on andrew@navwealth.com.au or (02) 9008 3000.