Business Tool:

Personal Information Register

16 June 2022

Susan Rix AM, Consultant, Business Services |

Preparing for the unexpected

After we pass away, it becomes the duty of our loved ones, legal advisors and business partners to make decisions about arrangements and carry out our final wishes. For family business members, high net worth individuals and business executives, these activities can be particularly extensive. From managing estates to notifying associations, family members and other parties have a lot to deal with during what is already a difficult period.

Our Family Business Personal Information Register helps compile this critical data, creating a single point of reference and guiding you through the process so you can make sure everything is included.

Why is it important to ensure your affairs are in order? What information should you consider?

When someone passes away, their family, successors and executors need to know which arrangements to make, how to manage the estate, what accounts to close and so on. Many people think mostly about wills and codicils, but there's so much more to consider.

For example, where is the deed to your house? If it's in a safety deposit box, where is the key? Who are the trustees to your property? Where are they located? This also includes wishes for funeral arrangements - details that aren't always covered in wills.

The digital age adds another layer of complexity. What happens to your online social profiles? Will anyone have login information so they can shut down these accounts? These platforms are easy to forget, because they're not what usually comes to mind when we consider end-of-life arrangements. You need to consider these smaller details in addition to the more obvious, ‘big ticket’ items like managing assets and business successions.

What happens if you don't have your information and intentions clearly in place?

For some items, there are legal processes to determine ownership – which takes time. But there are also issues requiring immediate responses that could have a negative impact on businesses if not laid out ahead of time. What happens to day-to-day operations if someone suddenly dies? There can be financial costs, for example, if people don't know you have funeral insurance. Your estate might unnecessarily have to pay those fees.

However, a lack of clear directions is not just an inconvenience or a financial matter - there's also emotional factors that can have a long-term impact on family dynamics. The best gift you can give your family and the business at this time is clarity and certainty – don’t leave these issues for others to have to figure out after you’ve passed away. This often leads to disputes and bitterness, or causes unpleasant circumstances, such as a permanent rift between siblings. Lawyers may get involved – at a significant financial, emotional and time cost.

Who needs to know this critical information?

Ideally your accountant, lawyer, and perhaps the executor of your will would have access to this critical information. Think about the people who need to make the decisions and arrangements right after you pass away - they're the ones who should have everything on hand.

When should you start preparing your information?

Sadly, it doesn't matter how old you are – no adult is too young to prepare this information. However, the older you are, the more complex your life and estate tends to be and the more critical this process becomes.

Our suggestion is to gather this information at the same time you set out a will – which everyone over the age of 18 should have. While this often isn’t the case, once you start to buy a house, get married or have a long-term relationship, you should ensure you have all your affairs in order. For people living on their own, with no spouse or partner to take responsibility for these issues, it’s particularly important to have your wishes and information documented.

Another consideration is the possibility of physical or mental incapacitation – for example, the onset of dementia - particularly as the population ages. What if you're still alive, but can no longer communicate your wishes or provide this information? That's why it's so critical to collect all of these components early on.

What strategies do people typically use to put their affairs in order? Are most people sufficiently prepared?

Most people are not well-prepared. A large percentage of the population doesn't even have a will - and certainly not comprehensive information such as that contained in the Personal Information Register - leaving things to chance or for other people to figure out. If you get married, divorced, or have children, you need to update your will. People often forget to update their information when big life changes occur.

How can you make sure you have everything properly arranged?

We offer a Family Business Personal Information Register, which helps people compile all their essential data. There's so much to think about that it can be overwhelming - this document guides people through the process so they can make sure everything's covered. This tool is designed to help you get organised; and for us to be able to assist you in that process. That way, you can have the peace of mind that your affairs are in order, even if the unexpected happens.

How do I sign up for the Personal Information Register?

Simply fill out the online form below and we’ll send you a link to complete the registration. By providing your phone number, we can contact you to check you have received the email registration and answer any questions you may have.