Waking up on Saturday 5 March to the news of Shane Warne’s untimely death was a shock to us all. As we followed his cricket career for Australia, for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, and in the commentary box, he became a permanent fixture in our cricketing experience for 35 years. All this, of course, without his other well-known adventures away from the cricketing world. His death at just 52 comes after the shock demise of another cricketing hero Dean Jones, also much loved in India – he died in Mumbai at the age of 59 in 2020.
The untimely deaths of the two men are a wake-up call for us to be more careful about our health. While there will be much chatter about lifestyle issues, perhaps one area which Indian migrants in Australia need to be mindful of, is to get their wills and estate planning in order. Having the paperwork sorted to handle all your assets and liabilities ensures that you will have certainty about who – in what proportion and in the most tax-friendly way – inherits your assets in case of death.
While individual needs will be different, let us look at three different scenarios: a young family, say with children below 12 years; a family with children who are teenagers to young adults, and finally those in their 60s or older.
While assets such as property (residential and investment) and shares are being created in the early stage of the migrant’s working life here in Australia, their biggest asset will be the life insurance in their superannuation.
In the case of a young family, the wills need to specify who would manage these assets and take care of the young children should the couple not be around anymore: will the children and investments move back to India to the care of extended family, or will local friends step in? As one is aware, the Australian legal system is rightfully protective of all minors, and it can take considerable time in deciding who will be the best providers of care should the parents pass away. Clear cut instructions in a legal document can make this difficult time more manageable.
Those migrants with teenage children who have spent most of their younger years in Australia will have a more challenging time. The children will have established social networks and structures in Australia and to uproot them and relocate them to an extended family overseas could be a challenge. Not only will the children be coming to terms with their personal loss, they will also face the challenges of a new social environment. The legal system can further bog the process down if the parents have not expressed their wishes as to what should happen to their children and assets.
In the case of migrants with adult children, they need to make sure their assets are passed on in a sensible way to their family members. Assuming wealth assets have been created, a proper estate plan can clarify how these must be distributed in a tax friendly and responsible manner. Other issues of protecting the wealth from spendthrift family members can also be considered.
A simple will by a qualified professional can cost a couple of thousand dollars, but can save a lot more in the future, with less uncertainty and confusion at a time of grief. You can count on the certainty this will provide, in those uncertain times.