An estate planning lawyer is a solicitor with experience in wills & estate planning. They usually specialise in end of life affairs, such as creating wills and Powers of Attorney, 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. These lawyers are armed with the expertise to make sure any documents created are considered valid by the Supreme Court when someone dies.
Some estate planning lawyers may also be considered an ‘Accredited Specialist’ if they have practiced 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.
Estate planning lawyers do more than writing and updating wills. They are usually engaged in two situations:
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
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 to complete their Estate plan so they can avoid legal complications or disputes 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.
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. 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.
Wills can be created quickly and easily without any input from a lawyer. DIY will kits or online services 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.
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.
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.
Estate planning lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to help with your estate planning but sometimes they aren’t necessary if your 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 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 an Executor, getting a lawyer on board may be worthwhile.