Leaving an inheritance to their family may seem out of reach to many Australians. The latest ME Household Financial Comfort report (released June 2017) shows that nearly 25% of Australian households have no money saved for emergencies. Once funeral costs and other final expenses are factored in, many may be more likely to leave behind debt rather than an inheritance.

Even for those with large estates, a planned inheritance can be chipped away at or delayed by taxes and legal fees. However, life insurance could allow you the freedom to spend your assets now and also leave behind an inheritance when you pass away.

Avoid tapping into a planned inheritance

Contrary to popular belief, spending does not appear to decline through a person’s retirement. A 2016 study by the Australian Centre for Financial Studies suggests that the yearly expenditures of Aussie retirees is relatively consistent.

This may be an issue for anyone planning to leave a specific dollar amount to the beneficiaries of their will.Much retirement advice hinges on the assumption that you’ll spend less the older you get. But if spending remains more or less consistent, you may find yourself tapping into funds earmarked for a future inheritance to pay your bills.

A life insurance policy can help supplement your estate. You can worry less about how much you’re spending in retirement, knowing your family could receive the insurance payout on top of any estate you do leave behind.

Playing the waiting game                                                

Even if you’re leaving an inheritance behind in other forms, it can take months for an estate to be settled. In Australia, the minimum time to finalise an estate is six months from the date of death.

Why so long? The process of administering a final estate can be complicated. Once a will is located, the executor must meet with beneficiaries, determine the amount of assets and debts, and apply for probate before the estate can be distributed or trusts established. Most wills are sorted in about nine months, but more complicated estates can take years to fully settle.

A life insurance payout can help your loved ones whilst they wait. Policies are typically paid out much sooner than an estate. The life insurance benefit can serve as a financial cushion, helping your loved ones financially until the bulk of their inheritance is received.

Cover your funeral costs

Helping cover final expenses is another way a life insurance benefit can serve as an inheritance booster.

Funeral costs are on the rise, with services in Australia ranging anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 or more. If you haven’t set aside funds to pay for a funeral, your family will likely need to cover the costs out of pocket. This can be “paid back” by any inheritance received once your estate is settled, but may put loved ones in a financial bind whilst they wait.

Life insurance policies often offer an advance on the full payout specifically to help families quickly pay for funeral arrangements. You can also take out a funeral insurance policy, designed to help with the immediacy of funeral planning. Benefits are often paid within 48 hours of receiving the completed paperwork, providing families with peace of mind during a difficult time.

Negotiating family politics

The typical Australian family looks a lot different today than it did just a few decades ago. Divorce, remarriage and cohabitation are more common, with families often welcoming step-children, multiple grandchildren, de facto partners and new in-laws into their inner circle.

A will is one way to stipulate who gets what after you pass, but they can be called into question. Almost anyone can contest a will. This can prolong the legal process of dividing the estate, and could fracture already tenuous family relationships.

In these cases, a life insurance policy naming one or more persons as the beneficiary could be a tactful way to honour your relationships or supplement an inheritance. Life insurance policies are not part of a person’s estate unless the estate is specifically nominated as the beneficiary. By naming a spouse, family member or close friend as beneficiary, the payout will go directly to them, and can be kept separate from the contents of your will.

Life insurance may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about an inheritance, but as you can see, a policy could be a good option for creating or supplementing one. Take some time to consider your financial situation and what you want to leave behind for your family. A life insurance policy could be the tool you need to help protect their financial future, while also helping to form your legacy.