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Wills & Estate Planning

Effective estate planning helps to ensure that your wishes concerning your property and assets are followed upon your passing, and that your affairs can be managed by someone you trust as you age or become incapacitated. We can help you make the essential preparations for your future. Our experienced team offers the following services:

  • Preparation of Wills
  • Obtaining a Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration
  • Estate administration
  • Testator’s Family Maintenance Act Applications
  • Disputing the validity of Wills
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Guardianship/Administration Applications

Why use a Lawyer to Prepare your Will?

For a Will to be valid, certain legal formalities must be met when it is prepared. For example, if the Will is not correctly signed or witnessed, there is a risk that it may be invalid or contested after your passing.

As experienced Wills and estate lawyers, we can give you peace of mind when it comes to estate planning. A Will is one of the most important legal documents that you will ever sign. Essentially, it records how you would like your assets dealt with after you pass and appoints a trusted person to deal with and finalise your affairs. However, Wills often go beyond that. Involving a lawyer to prepare your Will can help structure and maximise your estate to achieve its full potential. We will consider your individual circumstances and financial position as well as your family structure and take steps, if necessary, to minimise the potential for disputes to arise after your passing.

Do I need a Testamentary Trust?

When planning your estate, you can take steps to help protect assets for future generations. If you have minor or vulnerable beneficiaries, a testamentary trust might be the right tool to help you look after them. Trusts enable you to financially support someone without giving them direct control of the assets. They may also help protect your estate from third-party claims, ensuring that your assets go to your intended beneficiaries.

The potential benefits of a testamentary trust should be discussed with your lawyer and accountant. As with all forms of estate planning, a testamentary trust is not right for everyone. The administration of a trust costs money each year that the trust operates. This will include annual tax and auditing costs and could also include the trustee’s professional fees.

Estate Administration

After a person dies, someone needs to look after their property and finalise their financial and legal affairs. This is referred to as administering an estate. These duties are carried out by the executor/s appointed in the deceased person’s Will or a family member or next of kin if a person dies intestate (without a Will).

Before administering an estate, an executor may need to obtain a Grant of Probate from the Supreme Court. Probate ‘proves’ the Will of the deceased person and authorises the Executor to deal with the estate assets and distribute them according to the Will. When a person dies intestate, a family member will usually need to apply to the Supreme Court for Letters of Administration before the estate can be dealt with. The deceased’s property is then distributed according to a statutory formula set out in legislation.

Executors and administrators have many responsibilities which typically include:

  • Making funeral arrangements
  • Identifying and protecting assets
  • Filing for Probate or Letters of Administration
  • Contacting the deceased’s account providers and government authorities
  • Claiming funds under superannuation and life policies
  • Distributing assets, and transferring property to beneficiaries

Executors and administrators may need to deal with matters that are outside their areas of expertise. For example, they may need to transfer real estate, consider the correct order for the payment of estate debts, or deal with disputes or a testators’ family maintenance claim. Getting legal advice throughout the estate administration process can be invaluable during this difficult time.

If you need assistance, contact [email protected] or call 03 6331 5627.