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Estate Planning Lawyer: Do I Need One?

Navigating the intricacies of estate planning can be a big undertaking, and understanding whether the expertise of an Estate Planning Lawyer is necessary can be difficult for those just starting. In Australia, the role of these legal professionals extends beyond traditional will drafting; they are equipped to provide comprehensive guidance on matters ranging from asset distribution to trust establishment. This guide delves into the essential aspects of Estate Planning Lawyers in Australia, offering thoughtful insights to help you determine whether their services are essential for your unique circumstances.

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What’s an Estate Planning Lawyer (or "Will Lawyer")?

An estate planning lawyer is a solicitor with experience in Wills and estate planning. They usually specialise in end-of-life affairs, such as creating Wills and Powers of Attorney, setting up setting up Trusts, and administering estates after someone has passed away, including obtaining Grants of Probate.

Estate planning lawyers have a good knowledge of the current laws and regulations for Wills and estate planning across Australia, including aspects related to business succession. These lawyers are armed with the expertise to make sure any documents created are considered valid by the Supreme Court when someone dies.

Empowering Choices: Understanding the Accredited Specialist Designation in Estate Planning Law

Some estate planning lawyers may also be considered an ‘Accredited Specialist’ if they have practised law for five years, worked in their area of legal expertise for at least three years and passed a comprehensive exam developed by fellow legal experts.

The accreditation scheme assists Australians with selecting a legal professional who is fully equipped to handle their concerns.

What Do Estate Planning Lawyers Do?

Estate planning lawyers do more than help write and update Wills. They are usually engaged in two situations:

1. Preparation and Planning

Before someone dies, to help with estate planning (which includes writing wills, Powers of Attorney, structuring how assets are held, setting up testamentary trusts or self-managed superannuation funds, formalising Power of Guardianship or Power of Attorney documents); or

2. Postmortem: Estate Administration Guidance

After someone dies, to administer an Estate by acting as an Executor or to help with contesting a Will.

Do I Need an Estate Planning Lawyer?

You may not need to engage a lawyer for creating a simple will. These days writing and updating a will can be done from home without involving attorneys. DIY will kits or online services like Safewill exist to make will creation available at a fraction of the cost offered by legal professionals.

Some people may be more comfortable using a specialty lawyer or specialised estate planning team to complete their Estate plan so they can avoid legal complications or disputed estates after they die. While writing a will can be simple, there are guidelines you need to follow to make sure the document is considered valid by the courts. Estate planning experts are able to navigate tricky legal hurdles everyday Australians may not understand.

Navigating Complexities: Ensuring a Seamless Estate Plan for Blended Families

If you have a complicated estate or a blended family it may be worth engaging a professional to help out with your affairs. One of the major risks involved in will creation is assets ending up in the wrong hands, therefore, asset protection advice becomes paramount. This is sometimes referred to as the inheritance going sideways, or ‘L’ Shaped. It can occur if a spouse remarries and has another child after their partner dies and they change their will. In this situation the inheritance may flow through to the surviving spouse’s new family, meaning the child from the first family misses out.

Another key thing to think about with a blended family is to make sure everyone is provided for fairly. Under Australian law there are certain types of family members who are eligible to contest a will if they do not receive enough provision. In this situation, it might be appropriate to receive professional advice to make sure your will is drafted appropriately to reduce the risk of a contested estate. Estate planning lawyers can also help you work out tax strategies to help maximise your assets for your Beneficiaries.


Should you write a DIY Will or do you need a lawyer?

Wills can be created quickly and easily with no input from a lawyer. DIY will kits, online services or specialised services in expert Wills exist for people with easily defined assets and family members, to establish their final wishes at a fraction of the cost compared to engaging lawyers. Someone with a complicated Estate or a blended family may be more inclined to use a lawyer to draw up their Will.

How much do lawyers charge for a simple will?

Fees vary depending on the complexity of a Will but a solicitor will typically charge a fixed fee between $400- $800 for a simple Will and $1500 - $2000 for a complex Will. Using a service like Safewill to create your Will only costs $160.

I’m still confused. Should I get a lawyer or not?

Before you start writing your Will it is worth thinking about whether or not to seek out a lawyer. Engaging a lawyer can be a costly and time consuming affair but it may be the right decision if you are concerned about getting things right and avoiding potential complications down the track.

Safewill: Simplifying Estate Planning for Straightforward Financial Affairs

Estate planning lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to help with your estate planning but sometimes they aren’t necessary if your financial affairs are relatively straightforward. Writing or updating a simple Will can cost a fraction of the price if you do it yourself or use an online service like Safewill.

If you want to set up a family trust or you have a complicated Estate involving joint assets, the legal and administrative burdens involved may call for outside assistance. This is a situation where seeking professional legal advice is recommended. Likewise, if you are wanting to contest a Will or revoke the control of an Executor, getting a lawyer on board or seeking further information on legal advice may be worthwhile.

Last updated 16th October 2021
Louise Ayling
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Safewill is an online service providing streamlined forms and information. Safewill is not a law firm or a substitute for a lawyer’s advice about complex estate planning issues.