Trusts, Wills & Estates

Planning for your family’s future

When it comes to ensuring your rights, and the rights of your family, are protected there is nothing more important than setting up a will.

Yet just 59% of Australians have a will. And of the other 41%, just 22% expect to set one up in the near future. But few people make a deliberate decision not to make a will.

Robbins Watson Solicitors partner Christine Smyth, a Queensland-based succession law specialist, says people delay making a will simply because nobody wants to think about death.

“It’s a difficult thing to consider,” she says.

In her experience, problems arise when people haven’t thought about a will at all, leave it too late, or don’t think about it comprehensively.

When should I think about creating and or updating a will?

Creating or updating a will should be considered during significant lifetime milestones, such as when you move in with your partner, get married, buy a house, have children or go overseas. Wills are not just for the elderly.

It’s important to ensure a will represents your current intentions and circumstances.

“You can do a lot to prevent things from happening,” Smyth says.

“But life does happen at us.  And the sooner you address it, the better your prospects of stemming the consequences.”

While wills are commonly associated with dividing up assets, they can also be used to nominate guardians, choose executors and to clarify funeral arrangements.

Get advice as an executor

Lawyers can not only help individuals set up wills, but they can also assist those given the difficult task of ensuring the rights and wishes of the deceased are respected.

Those people are known as an executor and they are responsible for managing a deceased person’s wishes according to their will and the law. Lawyers can guide executors through the responsibilities they hold.

Prepare a power of attorney

Sometimes it will be necessary for individuals to set up a power of attorney. This is a legal document that enables you to give another person the legal authority to make decisions about your financial affairs.

A power of attorney is generally only used to give someone authority to make decisions in specific circumstances on an individual's behalf, like when they are away on an overseas trip, or for when the individual can no longer manage their own affairs.

Set up a discretionary trust

Another legal tool that is important for families to be aware of is the ability to set up a discretionary trust.

A discretionary trust is an arrangement where certain property is distributed on a discretionary basis by the trustee to the beneficiaries of a trust, usually family members, over a certain period of time.

So the next time you're planning for your families future, remember a lawyer can ensure you're making the most of the legal tools that are available to help.

If you’d like to ask a lawyer a question about this, or any other area of law, visit LawAdvisor.