Even those with simple family structures and modest resources should think about ways to ensure their hard-earned assets can be protected and maximised, and how their legal, financial and health affairs might be managed if they are incapacitated. Effective estate planning generally goes beyond having a Will. We can help with:
- simple and complex Wills
- tax effective Wills and protective trusts
- business succession planning
- asset protection strategies
- strategies to avoid disputes over legacies left in Wills
- probate and letters of administration
- estate administration
Making a Will
A Will is a legal document outlining how your assets should be distributed when you die and appointing somebody to manage and finalise your affairs (your executor/s). Your Will can also provide other directions such as the appointment of guardians for your minor children. Anybody over the age of 18 years can make a Will provided they have legal capacity to do so.
Why use a lawyer to prepare your Will?
For a Will to be valid, certain legal requirements must be met. If not, there is a risk that the Will may be challenged after you die. This can cause additional stress for your family and the possibility that your testamentary wishes may not be upheld. Involving a lawyer to prepare your Will ensures that the formal execution and witnessing requirements are met and the terms are clear and unambiguous.
We can help structure your Will to maximise your estate to achieve its full potential. We will consider your financial circumstances as well as taxation and superannuation matters. We will also consider your family structure and take steps, if necessary, to minimise the potential for disputes to arise after you die.
Reviewing your Will
You should review your Will regularly to ensure it is up to date and particularly when major life events occur, such as:
- the birth of a child
- separation or divorce
- commencing a new domestic relationship
- the passing of a beneficiary or executor named in your Will
- selling or purchasing major assets including real estate
- starting or investing in a business venture
Estate planning for blended families
There is no one-fit solution when it comes to estate planning for the blended family. The dynamics and needs within families evolve and personal assets may change from year to year. However, by identifying the potential issues that might arise within each family unit, and considering some options to address these, an effective estate plan can be implemented. The important thing is to discuss your circumstances and objectives with your lawyer so that your wishes can be properly set out in your Will and other estate planning documents.
Advanced health directives
You can convey your wishes about specific health care decisions through an advanced health directive. The document only takes effect when you have impaired capacity to make decisions about the matters which are covered by the advanced health directive.
The types of things that an advanced health directive include: directions about consent to certain future health care; circumstances under which life support is to be withheld or withdrawn; and authorisation of restraint, movement or management for health care purposes.
A direction in an advanced health directive has priority over a general or specific power for health matters given to an attorney. This means that if you feel strongly about certain health matters, you can use an advanced health directive to ensure your wishes are followed, rather than relying on your attorney to act in a certain way.
Probate and letters of administration
When a person dies, somebody needs to step in and finalise the affairs of the deceased person, whether or not a valid Will was left. This is generally referred to as estate administration and our compassionate and knowledgeable lawyers can provide expert advice and guidance during this difficult time.
If the deceased person left a Will, you may need to apply for a grant of probate before the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. If the deceased died without a Will, you may need to apply for letters of administration.
Applying for probate requires an application with supporting documents to be filed with the Supreme Court. When probate is granted, the Court deems the deceased’s Will to be their last Will and to be valid, which then authorises the executor to distribute the estate according to the Will. A grant of letters of administration, in the case of an intestate estate, operates in a similar way, providing authority for the administrator to deal with the estate.
We can assist with all your estate planning and estate administration needs. You may not need to come into our office to organise your important estate planning documents. We can prepare your Will or power of attorney by taking instructions in many different ways – by phone, email, or via a Zoom conference.