Overview Of Wills & Estates

Effective estate planning involves consideration of your family structure, your personal and financial circumstances and of course, your testamentary wishes. Even those with modest wealth and simple lifestyles should think about ways to ensure their assets are protected, and how their legal, financial and health matters might be managed in difficult times.

When someone dies, their financial and legal affairs must be finalised. This is known as estate administration and is carried out by the deceased’s legal representative known as an executor (or administrator if somebody dies without a Will).

We can help with all aspects of estate planning and estate administration including:

  • Preparing a valid Will that appoints executors/trustees to distribute assets to your beneficiaries and, where possible, reduces the potential for disputes
  • Advising on how assets may be distributed in the most tax-effective manner in your specific circumstances.
  • Creating testamentary trusts to safeguard assets from third party creditors and to protect vulnerable beneficiaries who may be at-risk of managing their inheritance whether through incapacity, disability, or dependency.
  • Preparing powers of attorney and enduring guardian documents so that your legal, financial and health affairs (as relevant) can be managed by somebody you trust if you are ill or incapacitated.
  • Business succession planning – ensuring arrangements are in place for the transfer of business and company interests
  • Applying for probate or letters of administration and guiding executors and administrators to distribute and finalise a deceased estate
  • Preparing deeds of family arrangement or family trusts
  • Transferring estate property and assets

Your Will

A Will is a legal document outlining how your assets should be distributed when you die and appointing somebody responsible for managing and finalising your affairs (your executor/s). Your Will can also provide other directions such as the appointment of guardians for minor children. We recommend reviewing your Will regularly, particularly when your personal and financial circumstances change.

Administering an estate – executors and administrators

An executor is appointed under a Will to deal with the affairs of somebody who has died. If the deceased person did not leave a valid Will (referred to as dying intestate), the next of kin is usually responsible for administering the estate. In such cases, the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to a statutory formula determined by the relevant laws of New South Wales.

Probate is a grant made by the Supreme Court that ‘proves’ the Will of a deceased person and authorises the executor to deal with the assets. The requirement to obtain probate generally depends on the size of the estate, the type of assets, and how they are held. A grant of probate may not be necessary in all cases and a lawyer can advise you whether a grant is needed or recommended.

A grant of letters of administration is usually required when a person dies intestate. On application, the Court will appoint an administrator (often the next of kin), allowing him or her to deal with the estate assets and liabilities in the same manner as an executor.

Administering a deceased estate including any trusts that form part of the estate can be complicated and stressful for executors and administrators. They have various legal duties and will need to deal with matters outside their areas of expertise. They will need to ensure estate assets are protected, and may need to invest money, or consider the tax implications on the sale or transfer of assets, the order of payment of debts, or deal with a family provision claim or other estate dispute.

If you have recently lost somebody and need assistance with administering the estate, our compassionate lawyers will provide expert guidance and advice to help finalise matters and ensure that your duties as executor or administrator are upheld.

If you need assistance, contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call 02 4297 6066 for expert legal advice.