See our Future Planning services below:
It is really important to have an up-to-date Will once you start to own assets. Your Will says how you wish your assets to be dealt with upon your death and who is responsible for making sure this is done. Your circumstances will change as life goes on and so a Will should be reviewed regularly to make sure that what you want can happen.
For some clients, their circumstances may require more intensive estate planning and a family trust may be an option for owning certain assets. Often this is where clients may wish to protect their family assets from claims by business creditors or where a couple may have children from previous relationships and wish to ensure that the assets they each owned prior to the relationship are protected for those children. Family trusts and the consequences of transferring ownership of assets to them and the duties of trustees need to be clearly understood, in particular in relation to entitlement to rest-home subsidies. This is a developing area of the law and is currently being reviewed by our law-makers, so careful attention and advice is needed.
A power of attorney gives a specified person (“the attorney”) authority to act legally for another person (“the donor”) in certain situations, for example, if the donor becomes unable to make decisions about his or her personal care and welfare or property due to ill health or age. Giving a person the right to deal with your property and/or your personal care and welfare are very important powers and so the person to be appointed and the extent of the powers given to that person must be carefully considered. Getting legal advice about the effect and consequences of granting a power of attorney is strongly recommended and indeed is a legal requirement before the documentation is signed.
When a loved one passes away, their estate is administered in accordance with their Will, or the Administration Act 1969 if there is no Will. This generally involves an application to the High Court by the persons named as executors in the Will for a grant of probate. Once probate is granted the executors can then administer the estate and make distributions to the beneficiaries according to the terms set out in the Will. Whether this process is straightforward or complicated depends on the nature of the assets involved, whether any claims are made against the estate, and whether the distributions to beneficiaries can be made once the estate administration has been completed or at some later date according to the terms of the will.