They say the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. Proper estate planning deals with both. Death may not be something we look forward to but it is something we should prepare for so our loved ones are looked after. Estate planning organises your personal financial affairs to prepare for the possibility of illness or incapacity as well as death. There are many ways to make sure we can look after those we leave behind.
We can help you create a plan designed specifically to your needs to protect those you care about.
Estate planning can be complex for many reasons including:
- The need to protect your assets by setting up trusts;
- Making sure assets are in the most tax effective structure;
- The need to look after children who are vulnerable, young or have special needs.
- Balancing the needs of a spouse (and perhaps children) of a second marriage and the needs and expectations of children from an earlier marriage to reduce the risk of your will being contested.
Illness and incapacity also need to be considered. At some point in our lives we face hard questions like:
- Who will act as the Power of Attorney for our property?
- Who will make decisions about our personal care?
- Who will speak for us when we cannot speak for ourselves?
- Who will look after our children?
- Who will take care of our dependents with special care needs?
We can help you prepare documents to ensure those you trust will act in your best interest.
People are living longer these days and many issues are starting to arise about how our elders are protected and cared for. Our elders can be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation from people around them.
Older people may want to help their children financially or even live with them in shared accommodation. It is important to have these things documented properly if things go wrong, or even to make sure that other members of the family know what was agreed and that advantage was not taken of the older person.
Powers of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship
A Power of Attorney lets someone else act for you when you can’t do so yourself. That person has power over your financial affairs so he or she needs to be someone you trust to take care of your best interests. You should appoint someone you can trust not to abuse the power you give them and who can account for the decisions he or she makes about your property. You can give more than one person your power of attorney and you can decide what powers your attorneys have.
We can guide you through the process of making a power of attorney and/or Enduring Guardianship.
Wills, Expert Wills and Testamentary Trusts
You can’t take it with you but you can decide who gets what you own after you go. You need to have a will, especially if you have children. Dying without a will leaves you without any say in where your estate goes when you die. This may lead to your estate being distributed amongst those you might not have wished to benefit, or it may lead to costly disputes, or simply long delays in your beneficiaries receiving their share. It’s those you leave behind who bear the burden of this after you’re gone.
We make the process as simple and straight forward as possible. We work with you to draft a will that reflects your goals. We do this to help you reduce disagreements or disputes after you are gone.
Choosing your Executor
Your choice of executor is a very important part of your will. Not just anyone can do the job properly. Your executor receives great responsibility. They control the estate and distribute it to your chosen beneficiaries. The person you want needs to be suitable, trustworthy and willing and capable of doing the job.
When should you update your Will?
You should update your will when life changes happen (good or bad). Significant life events can change your family or financial situation, and maybe even invalidate your existing will. You should update your will when any of the following happens:
> Your financial situation changes.
> Your Executor dies, moves overseas or loses capacity.
> You or a family member gets married, separates, divorces or has a child.
Probate and Estate Administration
When someone you love dies it’s a stressful time for those they leave behind. If their will appoints you as executor of the estate, having to deal with the estate as well can increase that stress. As executor, you need to find the Will, apply to the Court for probate, arrange the funeral, apply for a death certificate and find out all of the assets the deceased person owned.
Probate is the Court’s recognition that the deceased’s will is her or his undisputed and legally valid last Will. Probate gives the executor the right to deal with the estate assets on behalf of the deceased.
To apply for probate, all property owned by the deceased must be itemised and valued. All assets, including real estate, cars, jewellery and bank accounts need to be reported to the Court in an affidavit supporting the application for probate.
Once probate has been granted you will need to pay the deceased’s debts, submit a final tax return and distribute the estate as set out in the deceased’s will. While you do all of this you need to keep accurate records of what you have done.
We know our way through this landscape. We will guide you and help you through every step of the probate and asset administration process to ease your stress during this difficult time.
Buying or Selling Property (Conveyancing) Either In NSW and Queensland
For most of us, our homes are the most significant and valuable asset we own. When you buy or sell property, it’s best to choose an experienced lawyer who has your back.
Always get your lawyer on board as early in the process as possible. You get the best protection and advice if your lawyer is advising you every step of the way.
Property can come with hidden problems. Sometimes boundary lines are not clear or in dispute. Maybe the property has zoning difficulties or is subject to encumbrances like liens, easements (rights of way), or encroachments. What are your rights and obligations in these cases?
Our knowledgeable and experienced property team will shine a light on any hidden entanglements that might otherwise cost you time and money.
Estate Litigation / Challenging Unfair Wills
We are experienced Estate Litigation Lawyers.
Estate litigation covers any dispute about a will. People who are eligible may bring a claim for further provision under the Succession Act if the willmaker did not provide adequately for their proper maintenance, education or advancement in life.
There might be disagreements about what the will means or even whether the person who made the will had the capacity to make it at all.
Estate litigation is emotional and stressful. It often involves family members on both sides. It is crucial to consult with an estate lawyer as early as possible to understand your obligations and protect yourself, the estate, the beneficiaries and/or your loved one through what is often an intimidating process.
Whether you are the executor of an estate where a claim for provision has been filed, or a dependent who has been left out of a will of a deceased person, our estate lawyers can help. We will help you work through the matter to make sure it is resolved in a timely fashion.
If you are thinking of helping your children get into the property market you should think about a loan agreement. It will protect your loan in the event of your child’s divorce or separation. The loan agreement should be prepared at the time the loan is advanced so that the Court can see that it was a genuine loan arrangement. Otherwise the Court might presume that the money was a gift to your child.