Will Lawyers Fremantle
Many people put off the task of estate planning for as long as possible. For others, making plans for after their death is a pragmatic act that can help their families in the future. However careful the approach to estate planning, things can still go wrong, especially if close family members are left out of a will. Our will lawyer in Fremantle has substantial experience in all aspects of wills and estate planning, and work closely with accountants and financial planners to ensure the best planning outcomes for our clients.
Why to use a Will & Estate Planning Lawyer
While simple wills are still appropriate in some circumstances, there is an increasing complexity to wills due to a number of factors including:
- More “blended families” where there are children from previous relationships
- A complicated business and investment environment where clients quite often have family trusts, interests in companies and unit trusts, and self-managed superannuation funds
- A requirement for testamentary trusts to provide asset protection and taxation benefits for beneficiaries
In addition, due to continual increases in life expectancies there is a greater need for “Living Wills” encompassing Enduring Powers of Attorney, Enduring Powers of Guardianship and Advance Health Directives.
Businesses also need succession planning, particularly where there are two or more business owners. For this purpose, business succession agreements, commonly referred to as buy/sell agreements, are often implemented to facilitate the appropriate changes of ownership on the death or disability of one of the owners.
How our Fremantle Will Lawyers Can Help
Our will lawyers in Fremantle provide a range of services to help you with your succession planning, such as:
- Simple Wills
- Complicated Wills with testamentary trusts
- Mutual Wills Agreements
- Enduring Powers of Attorney
- Enduring Powers of Guardianship
- Advance Health Directives
- Letters of Wishes
- Probate and Letters of Administration
- Deeds of Family Arrangement
- Buy/Sell Agreements
- Family Trusts
A will can perform a number of different functions. At a minimum, a will sets out how the deceased’s property should be distributed. This can be a detailed list of individual items, but generally a will simply divides the estate in percentages. For instance, if the testator is married with children, their will may state that their spouse receives the entire estate unless they predecease them, in which case the children inherit in equal shares.
A will can leave instructions for the executor to follow when planning the deceased’s funeral. The document can also describe the testator’s wishes for the care of children and pets, and put in place arrangements for the financial support of dependents.
For a will to be valid, it must meet a few basic requirements. It must be signed and dated, and properly witnessed by at least two people who are not beneficiaries of the will. The will itself should be carefully preserved, as any marks or damage on the document can lead to questions about its legibility and validity. Even a tiny staple mark can bring the whole validity of the will into question, as it may suggest that there was a document attached that is missing.
When someone dies without a valid will, they are said to be “intestate”. In that case, someone close to the family will need to apply to the Supreme Court of Western Australia for Letters of Administration. This document allows a family member to act as if they are the executor of the estate, although they will have to distribute the estate according to the rules set down in legislation, rather than according to the deceased’s wishes expressed in their will.
Family Provision Claims
Even when a deceased does leave a valid will, this does not guarantee that there will be no disputes over the estate. When someone is left out of a will, or feel that they did not receive a fair share, they can apply to the Supreme Court to contest and overturn the will. These applications are often successful, especially when the deceased has left their child out of their will.
These types of estate disputes can have long-term implications on the harmony of a family. Although estate disputes can end up in the Supreme Court, it is almost never recommended to allow a dispute to get to this point. A court hearing is time-consuming, stressful, and expensive.
There are a number of alternatives that a solicitor can help you explore to reach an amicable outcome, or at least allow the parties to reach an agreement and move on with their lives. For instance, a Family Provision Claim made by a disinherited member of the family can be resolved between the executor of the estate and the claimant with the assistance of solicitors. The parties can reach an agreement through mediation, for example, saving the estate the cost of a legal battle through the courts.
Speak to a Fremantle Will & Estate Planning Lawyer today
The complications that you create for the loved ones you leave behind could be extensive by not having your affairs in order. Family members often fall out following the death of a parent, due to the absence of adequate estate planning. And those who do have their affairs in order, often have only considered the financial outcomes, and not the emotional impact their legacies will create. Most people prefer to be remembered for their life, and not the family tensions created by the execution of their will. With more blended families, continually changing legislation, and more people having money invested in superannuation, it is more important than ever to make well planned testamentary arrangements and keep them updated as your circumstances change.