Estate planning key to changing demographics

21-Apr-2017

By Daniel Paperny

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Australia’s aging population offers an opportunity for advisers to differentiate themselves by providing comfort and reassurance around estate planning and testamentary trusts, according to Australian Unity Trustees.

Speaking with financialobserver, Australian Unity Trustees national manager of estate planning Anna Hacker noted estate planning was becoming more prevalent within financial planning conversations as the industry moved towards lifting the professionalism of planning practitioners under the incoming educational standards regime.

“Advisers now are understanding that if an estate plan falls down, all of the work they’ve done is going to be worth nothing, because if it’s just not set up properly [then] the next generation won’t enjoy any of the fruit of the labour,” Hacker said.

“I’ve had a lot of advisers asking me about it as they’re wanting themselves to specialise [in estate planning]; they’re not looking to just get the advice of the lawyers, but they’re also wanting to have a much deeper understanding of it and that’s not something I would have seen a decade ago.”

Hacker noted that while preparing for the separation of a personal estate in the event of a serious medical condition or life-changing event was often a “hard conversation” to have, it was also an event where quality advice was needed most.

“Questions about wills are coming up a lot more than they did just 10 years ago. There are more and more issues with them because people are getting them wrong, especially when they’re trying to do them on their own [and without an adviser],” Hacker said.

“That’s really distressing and it’s not an easy conversation to have so I completely understand why advisers don’t even necessarily want to start the conversation, but the ones that do get to know their clients so well.

“It might seem like it’s talking about death but it’s actually talking about things like legacy. It can actually be quite a nice and positive conversation – whether it’s about giving to charity, the legacy of your family, or that you’re building all this wealth up and ensuring that it is maintained for the next generation.”

Estate planning, as a result, needed to play a greater part in the ongoing training and educational development of new entrants into the advice industry, Hacker added.

She said the failure of many Australians to seek an adviser when it came to estate planning or setting up a will was also a key challenge as far too many Australians were “under-prepared” and were left misinformed.

“With an aging population, it’s going to become increasingly important because it affects all of our clients, it’s not just one or two,” she said.

“Every client needs a will, so it’s not just an issue that affects those with a lot of money or a lot of complexity. It affects every single one [of us].”

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