IN the bad old days of death duties, financial planning often revolved around asset structures to minimise the impact of death duties and to protect the value of estates for the next generation.

Death duties throughout Australia thankfully are gone and we currently plan our finances for living. In fact, the major emphasis today is on financial planning for retirement.

Seminars, newspaper articles and lifestyle programs promote the benefits of superannuation and address the necessity to ensure adequate funds are entrusted towards our retirement date.

The prominence previously given to the incidence of death duties is now often directed at income tax.

While there is a need for equity and for all Australians to meet their fair share of income tax, through proper planning it is possible to avoid paying extra tax due to poor investment choice, incorrect structure of borrowings or all income being concentrated on one family member.

Financial planners are well-placed to advise regarding tax effective investments, superannuation products, salary sacrifice and income sharing.

While current emphasis is on planning for living, estate planning to avoid any unwanted consequences upon death should also be addressed.

Capital gains tax has been likened to a de facto death duty and our will should act in concert with our investment structure to avoid any unnecessary impositions.

Proper estate planning made with forethought to determine how assets, particularly superannuation, will be distributed upon our death with maximum efficiency in keeping with our wishes, can lessen the worry for spouse, partners or family.

There are compelling reasons to link our will planning with our financial planning.

While we plan our assets to benefit ourselves during our lifetime, we would all like to maximise estate benefits for our heirs rather than government coffers through taxation.

Good will planning is an essential element of our financial planning and it is recommended that professional advice be taken regarding your will.

The Public Trustee at 221 London Circuit, Canberra City, offers a will service for testators choosing his office as executor and has tax effective charitable options available through Canberra's own charitable foundation, GreaterGood.

■ For more information, phone 6207 9800 or visit publictrustee.act.gov.au or greatergood.org.au