A will is an important document which governs how your property will be distributed after your death. A carefully drafted Will can often increase the benefits that flow to your family or intended beneficiaries. Estate planning is more complex than most people realise. Common reasons for the complexity include, for example, a need to understand which assets can be gifted under a Will and which cannot; what arrangements are best made in a blended family situation, how to minimise claims against an estate; whether assets should be placed into a trust for tax or asset protection reasons, what arrangements should be made for assets held overseas, what estate planning steps should be taken to ensure the smooth transfer of a family business. At Mullane & Lindsay we appreciate that you are an individual with specific issues to address and also that at the various stages of your life you will require different advice. Typical stages include: a young person over the age of 18 years entering the workforce for the first time, young partners without children who purchase assets together; partners who begin a family and wish to ensure that their children are looked after if they both pass away, partners or spouses who have separated and entered into a property settlement and who now need to re-assess their estate planning; and partners nearing retirement after down-sizing from the family home. We often see clients or their families who wish that they had sought legal advice earlier. For example: younger clients may believe they have few assets but forget about their entitlement to superannuation death benefits. This belief could see assets passing to an estranged parent instead of a sister/brother. Younger clients also often fail to make legal arrangements if they travel overseas. In blended family situations, legal disputes often arise between step-parents and step-children. Where appropriate we include your accountant/financial planner in your estate planning who can supply information and documents to assist with your decision making. Our ultimate goal is to achieve an outcome suitable for you and your family.
A person who lacks legal capacity cannot sign legal documents. As well as drafting Wills, we assist clients to avoid this risk by appointing substitute decision makers to act for them if that situation arises.
If a family member or friend has died and you are a nominated executor of a Will or if the person has died without a will, a grant of grant of probate on letters of administration is often needed to legally transfer ownership of the deceased's assets to the appropriate persons. Obtaining a grant of probate and administering an estate can be a difficult time for family and beneficiaries. We are skilled at advising in relation to the administration of estates whether a Will exists or not. We take the time to explain the process involved. As a firm, we have been assisting clients with estates for over 40 years and have accumulated a wealth of experience to help solve any problems which may arise. Typical problems which have arisen in the past include problems with home-made Wills, beneficiaries in dispute with each other, claims against the estate, unusual assets and changed legal names.
Claims against an estate
It is surprisingly common for claims to be made against a deceased's estate. Our team of lawyers focuses on the timely preparation of claims so that early mediated and negotiated solutions can be achieved for clients. If that is unsuccessful and it becomes necessary to initiate or defend claims in court to achieve the best outcomes for the client and/or the estate, our lawyers have the skills and experience to advance that litigation. The most frequent claims are "family provision" claims where an eligible person (usually a family member) alleges that they should have received assets under the Will and were either left out or that they did not receive adequate or proper provision from the estate. Other claims against estates include allegations that the deceased was influenced to write a Will only in favour of some family members and to leave out others or that the deceased lacked capacity when the Will was made.
The Wills, Estates & Trusts team is headed by Director Michael McGrath and Consultant Robert Lindsay and includes Special Counsel Felicity Wardhaugh.
For more information, please contact us.