Wills & Estate Planning

Wills & Estate Planning

Your family and loved ones are important to you, and ensuring that they are adequately provided for in the future requires careful thought and consideration.

It is essential that you obtain the best advice to achieve this from the beginning.

Wills and Estate Planning: How to Protect Your Family and Assets





How we can help you

When it comes to safeguarding the future of your loved ones, the line from The Lion King "Being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble" springs to mind as a perfect analogy. Planning for life's unpredictable twists is vital, and one such measure available is wills and estate planning. What would happen if you were unable to fulfil your family responsibilities unexpectedly? How secure are your hard-earned assets? If these questions trigger a hint of trepidation, it's time for you to consider drafting a will and undertaking meticulous estate planning.

Creating a will and engaging in estate planning is important as it allows you to have control over how your assets will be distributed after your passing, rather than leaving it up to state law. Estate planning also includes naming beneficiaries, setting up trusts, establishing guardianship for minor children, and planning for incapacity or end-of-life care. By engaging in proper estate planning, you can help to minimise probate costs, avoid legal disputes, and ensure that your family is taken care of according to your wishes.

Importance of Wills and Estate Planning

As uncomfortable as it may be to plan for your death, it is crucial to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of if the unexpected occurs. Estate planning involves a comprehensive review of your assets, including your bank accounts, real estate, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies and personal property. Proper estate planning minimises or eliminates uncertainty and ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

Not having a will or estate plan not only leaves your family with complicated legal procedures but also can cause conflicts between surviving members over the distribution of assets. Even in cases where people believe that their estate may not warrant an estate plan because of limited assets, it is still important to create one. Without an estate plan, the state laws will decide how your assets are dispersed which may not align with your wishes.

We understand that contemplating one's potential incapacity or passing away can be daunting. Still, It is essential to remember that proper estate planning enables you to provide for those who matter most while giving you peace of mind knowing they will be taken care of when you no longer can.

Assigning Heirs and Beneficiaries

Articulating who stands as heirs with respect to your wealth/assets and deciding on beneficiaries is vital in drawing up an effective plan. Heirs refer to those entitled to an individual’s property under state law when there isn’t a valid will. Typically, in intestacy (no valid will), immediate family members like spouses and children inherit by default; hence defining beneficiaries becomes crucial as others can receive gifts from individuals outside their immediate families.

Further debate on whether you'd like beneficiaries who have similar or different abilities to manage assets and property is essential. For example, you might want to give your home to one child while leaving a retirement account to another who is more financially savvy.

It is elementary to get lost in the daunting details of who gets what and how much. This circumstance underlines the need for expert advice when crafting estate plans to ensure that assets are divided correctly as intended, especially if there may not be specific heirs. An estate planning attorney can assist in articulating who the beneficiaries are succinctly so that the plan can avoid unnecessary litigation, which could lead to reduced asset value.

Guardianship Provisions and Power of Attorney

When thinking about estate planning, it's important to consider who will take care of your minor children in the event of your passing. Naming guardians in your will can ensure that your children are taken care of by people you trust and who share similar values as you.

Guardianship provisions can also extend to adult children with disabilities or special needs. It's crucial to think through what type of care they may need and who would be equipped to provide it for them.

In addition to guardianship provisions, it's essential to designate a power of attorney. This gives someone you trust the authority to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Without this designation, decisions about your health and finances could end up in court, causing unnecessary stress and financial burden on your loved ones.

One example of why it's important to have a power of attorney is showcased in our experience working with clients. We had an elderly client whose daughter was taking care of her mother's finances but didn't have a legally binding power of attorney. The client became incapacitated, and the daughter needed access to funds for her mother's medical treatment. However, without a power of attorney, she couldn't access the bank account or make financial decisions on her mother's behalf without going through a lengthy court process. This highlights the need for everyone to have a designated power of attorney designated early on.

Some people may be hesitant to appoint a guardian or power of attorney because they feel like they're giving up control over their lives. However, choosing someone you trust and designating them as your agent or guardian is an essential part of being proactive about protecting yourself and your loved ones.

Additionally, some individuals may feel uncomfortable having these conversations with family members or potential guardians. Still, failing to do so can cause more significant problems in the future, leading to court battles over guardianship and causing potentially irreparable damage to familial relationships.

Crafting Your Will and Setting Up Trusts

When it comes to crafting your estate plan, creating a will and trust is fundamental. A will outlines how you want your assets distributed after your passing, while a trust can protect your assets throughout your lifetime.

Drafting these documents requires careful consideration of what you want for your beneficiaries and how you want your assets managed. When crafting a will, it's crucial to be specific about who gets what and how they receive it. Failing to clarify instructions can lead to unintended consequences or disputes between beneficiaries.

Setting up trusts allows you to keep control over how your assets are distributed while protecting them from creditors and potential lawsuits. There are many different types of trusts that can be created depending on your individual needs and goals.

Another reason why setting up trusts is crucial is demonstrated by our experience working with clients. We've had clients with high-value estates that could be subject to estate tax if left unprotected by proper estate planning measures. By creating trusts within their plans, we were able to minimise their tax liability while still providing for their loved ones.

Some people may believe that setting up trusts and other estate planning documents are only important for the extremely wealthy or older individuals. However, estate planning is essential regardless of the size of your estate or the age at which you decide to set it up. Protecting yourself and your loved ones should always be a priority, no matter what stage of life you're in.

Drafting the Will & Trust Documents

Drafting your will and trust documents is an essential part of estate planning. These documents will establish how your assets will be distributed among beneficiaries and who will be responsible for managing them. Although there are DIY online resources available to create these documents, it’s crucial to hire an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that everything is in order.

One such reason why hiring a lawyer for drafting your will and trust documents is a good idea is that these legal documents need to be precisely crafted to meet state laws' requirements. The law regarding estate planning and probate can vary widely from state to state, making it vital to have a lawyer who has experience dealing with estate planning laws in your state.

The Role of Executors and Trustees

Executors and trustees play significant roles when it comes to carrying out directives included in a person's last will and testament. Understanding the differences between these two roles is necessary for executing your final wishes as carefully crafted in trust or otherwise.

An executor’s role is primarily concerned with ensuring that the instructions included in your last will and testament are carried out as per your specifications. They may be responsible for distributing assets, paying off any debts you leave behind, and taking care of any taxes owed by your estate.

On the other hand, a trustee serves as a legal representative of the assets placed in trust. They ensure that any instructions provided in the trust document are carried out as per your directives, manage the disbursement of funds to the designated beneficiaries and manage the overall administration of the trust.

It is worth noting that you can appoint the same person for both roles, although many people elect to have a different individual accomplished in carrying out these tasks since they require drastically different skill sets.

Therefore, when selecting an executor or trustee, it’s essential to consider their ability to perform the designated duties efficiently. They should also be people who share a sense of ethical responsibility towards handling your estate's affairs after your passing.

Updating Your Estate Plan: When and Why

Estate planning is not a one-time event. Life circumstances can change quickly, so it's important to review and update your estate plan regularly to keep it current. A good rule of thumb is to revisit your estate plan every 3-5 years or after any major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or the acquisition of significant assets.

Updating your estate plan ensures that your wishes are respected and that your assets are distributed according to your current desires rather than an outdated will. Additionally, keeping your estate plan up-to-date can help to prevent disputes among family members and minimise the need for litigation.

Updating your estate plan is like getting a regular check-up at the doctor's office. You may not always feel motivated to schedule an appointment, but ultimately it is better for your health (and peace of mind) in the long term. Similarly, while updating your estate plan may seem burdensome in the short term, it can ultimately save time and money while protecting your loved ones' financial future. Lynda Sanders and the team at Dixon & Sanders Lawyers are highly experienced estate planning lawyers. They are the lawyers you need to contact to ensure you and your loved ones have the right arrangements in place no matter the situation such as inheritance, a bequest,  or preserving your legacy.

Why Dixon & Sanders Lawyers?

At Dixon & Sanders Lawyers, we have extensive experience in Wills and Estate Planning and work with our clients to ensure they get the best outcomes possible, whether you are looking to have your Will or Powers of Attorney drafted or reviewed.

We are experts in wills and estate planning and can help to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes and protect your assets.

Need help with a Will or related matter?

Dixon & Sanders Lawyers lawyers offer consultation and expert advice, so there’s no excuse for holding off on making a Will. Get in touch with us today so we can make the process easy for you.

Dixon & Sanders Lawyers are based in South Kingsville, Victoria. We provide services in the Conveyancing, Wills & Estate Planning Leasing, Business Sales & Acquisitions space.

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