Wills & Estate Planning

Our Wills and Estate Planning Team, supported by other experts at Meyer Vandenberg, is here to help you with all your estate planning issues as relate to Wills, superannuation, tax and conveyancing.

We take a holistic approach and work with you, your representatives and expert advisers to ensure your assets are protected and distributed to beneficiaries as you intend upon your death.

We are experienced at preparing all types of Wills, from straightforward “single family, no business” ones to complex Wills involving multiple entities and businesses, as well as for blended families.

We are also experienced in preparing Powers of Attorney and Enduring Powers of Attorney in many Australian States and Territories, and have extensive experience in establishing trusts, including Special Disability Trusts.

What we do

Estate planning for individuals

  • Preparation of Wills, including Testamentary Trust Wills and Special Disability Trust Wills
  • Applications to appoint a Guardian
  • Preparation and registration of Powers of Attorney, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Medical Powers of Attorney
  • Wealth management advice for complex succession issues and family structure reviews
  • Reviews of current trust and company structures to ensure estate planning objectives are met

Estate planning for businesses

  • Establishment of family trusts
  • Business succession advice
  • Taxation compliance for trust and superannuation funds
  • Transfer of title for commercial property
  • Establishment of and advice about trust and superannuation funds
  • Wealth management advice for complex succession issues and family structure reviews

On the passing of a loved one

  • Deceased estate administration and distribution of assets
  • Disputed Wills and inheritance claims
  • Applications for probate
  • Transfer of title for residential and commercial property

The MV difference

  • A commitment to collaborating with you, your representatives and expert advisers to know your current circumstances and desired outcomes (testamentary intentions) upon your death or incapacity.
  • An expert team who specialises in both estate planning and estate disputes, providing a holistic and tailored service to ensure your estate planning objectives are achieved.
  • An expert team who understands first-hand that estate planning is far more than “just a Will”.
  • A focus on practical and commercial plain-English advice borne from real-life experience by our lawyers.
  • Full and frank disclosure of all legal costs that accords with a value proposition about the legal work to be performed.

FAQs

“Do it yourself” Will kits may seem attractive because of the low price tag, however, such documents tend to lack detail, meaning that upon your death there may be ambiguity surrounding who receives what from your estate.  For example, a Will kit may not cover something like the distribution of your estate in the event your immediate family or beneficiaries die before you.  Additionally, such kits may not disclose the requirements of a legally valid Will (that is, requirements under State and Territory legislation), such as signing requirements.  All of this means many Will kits are completed incorrectly, creating an invalid Will.

If your Will appears unclear upon your death, it may cost your estate a substantial amount of money for a court to interpret the Will.  If you wish to save your family time and money upon your passing, it is best to make a Will through a solicitor, who can ensure your testamentary wishes are properly drafted and your estate planning documents meet the required formalities.

An Executor is the person who will be in charge of administering your estate after your death.  In most cases, your Executor will be your spouse or partner, another family member or a trusted friend.  You can also appoint a professional Executor, such as the Managing Partner of Meyer Vandenberg who has vast experience in finalising deceased estates.

An Executor typically will be required to notify your beneficiaries of your death, ensure that all of your property and assets are dealt with according to your Will and obtain authority from the Supreme Court of the relevant State or Territory to administer such assets.  Depending on the details of your estate, an Executor may also be required to complete income tax returns or establish trusts for beneficiaries.

Superannuation can sometimes be the largest asset you have when you die.  Superannuation does not automatically form part of your estate under your Will.  Instead, you need to complete a Death Benefit Nomination with your nominated superannuation fund.  This nomination is a written direction to the trustee of the fund, advising them of who your death benefit is to be paid to upon your death.  It is important to have a binding nomination, because without one, when you die, the trustee of the super fund can decide to whom the benefit will be paid – this could in turn be against your wishes.

It is important to obtain expert advice as you can only nominate a very limited class of people to receive your superannuation benefit, despite many superannuation funds allowing you to choose beneficiaries who do not fall into this classes.

If you have completed a nomination in the past you should get an expert to check your nomination, as often superannuation funds do not tell you if you have nominated an invalid person.  If you choose a beneficiary who is not able to receive your superannuation, then the gift to them is not valid and your superannuation death benefit may be received by someone you would not have otherwise chosen.

More than ever before, society is now made up of blended families. When two families come together with children, your Will still needs to reflect and consider your new family structure, your children and the person or people you trust to make decisions about your estate (assets) after your death.  When or if your relationship changes, your Will needs to reflect your new situation.

A Grant of Probate is a legal document which authorises your Executor to manage your estate and make distributions according to your Will.  The Grant of Probate can be presented to institutions, such as banks and retirement villages holding bonds, in order for them to transfer the assets to the Executor for distribution.  The Grant also needs to be made in the State or Territory in which you held assets.  However, if the deceased held real estate in multiple States or Territories then a reseal of the original Grant must be obtained.  Depending on the size of the deceased estate and assets, a Grant may not always be required.

Letters of Administration is similar to a Grant of Probate, but appoints an Administrator rather than an Executor to manage your estate.  There are two types of Letters of Administration – Letters of Administration with the Will annexed and Letters of Administration without a Will (where the deceased has died intestate).  Letters of Administration with the Will annexed can be sought when the deceased has left a Will but the Executor has died or is unable or unwilling to act and there is no alternate Executor listed in the Will.

If a person dies without a Will, they die intestate.  In the ACT, their assets are then distributed according to a formula set out in the Administration and Probate Act 1929 (ACT).  Intestacy can also occur if there is an existing Will that is not valid because, for example, it was not signed or witnessed according to the law, or the maker of the Will was not of sound mind or was under undue influence when making the Will.  Where a person dies intestate, a court decides how the person’s estate is administered and the assets distributed.