Wil & Estate Planning Lawyers Northern Beaches
Estate planning goes beyond preparing a will and leaving it in a safe place. Our wills and estate lawyers in the Northern Beaches can help you arrange your legal affairs to ensure that your wishes are clear to your family when you die, and to minimise potential disputes. We will look at your individual circumstances and tailor your estate plan to your unique needs. We can also advise on more complex matters, for example, where a beneficiary is vulnerable or has a legal disability and requires solutions such as the creation of a trust to ensure they are looked after when you die.
If you have lost a loved one or are the executor of a deceased estate, our will lawyers can provide advice and guidance so you can carry out your duties to administer the estate as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Preparing your Will
A will is a legal document that records how you would like your affairs to be dealt with after you die. It appoints an executor, responsible for administering your estate, and names your beneficiaries, those who will receive an inheritance.
Arguably, a will is one of the most important legal documents you can make. While you can make a will without obtaining legal advice, if the will is not correctly prepared, it can be deemed invalid by a court or have unintended consequences, which unfortunately will not be evident until after you die. An experienced estate lawyer can guide you in structuring your affairs to ensure your wishes are clear and to help protect the inheritance for your beneficiaries.
Reviewing your will regularly is critical to ensure the executors and beneficiaries named in it are still alive and that the will continues to reflect your wishes. Moving in with a partner, getting married, divorced, or separating are all major events and reasons to review your will. Major changes in your health or financial circumstances, or an unexpected windfall might also mean you should review your will.
While many wills between spouses or de facto partners are simple and straightforward, there can often be complications where there has been a second marriage and there are children of the first marriage who expect a share in their parent’s estate. Careful drafting of the will is necessary to balance the competing interests of the second spouse and the children of the first marriage.
If you have young children or vulnerable beneficiaries, a testamentary trust might be the right tool to help you look after them. As the name suggests, a testamentary trust is made under a will and begins at the death of the testator. Trusts enable you to financially support someone without giving them direct control of the assets. They can also help protect your estate from third party claims, ensuring that your assets are used to benefit those you love.
There can also be potential tax benefits of using a testamentary trust which you should discuss with a 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 it operates. This includes annual tax and auditing costs and could also include the trustee’s professional fees. Our Northern Beaches wills and estate solicitors can help you decide whether a testamentary trust is right for your circumstances.
Deceased Estates and Estate Administration
The finalisation of a person’s affairs after they die is referred to as “estate administration”. This is usually carried out by the executor/s appointed in the deceased person’s will or an administrator (appointed by the court) if a person dies intestate.
Before administering an estate, you may need a grant of probate from the Supreme Court. The grant “proves” the will of the deceased person and authorises the executor to deal with the estate assets and distribute them according to the will. In the case of a person who dies intestate, a family member will usually need to apply to the Supreme Court for letters of administration before the estate can be distributed and finalised.
Executors and administrators have many responsibilities and complex situations can arise, particularly where there has been conflict with the family or between executors and beneficiaries. Executors and administrators will usually liaise with various third parties (banks, accountants, agents, etc.) and may need to deal with issues outside their areas of expertise. For example, they may need to consider the prescribed order of payment of debts or deal with a family provision claim or some other estate dispute.
Speak to a Northern Beaches Will & Estate Lawyer today
Our wills and estate lawyers in the Northern Beaches have a depth of knowledge in estate planning and a key focus of our practice relates to probate and the administration of estates. We are often retained by clients who are executors of wills to assist and advise them on the procedures necessary to firstly obtain probate of the will and then to administer the estate according to the provisions of the will and the law.
If you need assistance, contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call 02 9949 4022 for expert legal advice.