Regardless of age, wills and estate planning are a crucial part of our lives as we are faced with more responsibilities in life.
At Barrett Walker, our team of expert lawyers routinely advise our clients on the avenues available to achieve their objectives, whether it be family maintenance, assets protection, tax planning or succession planning, we are well-position to offer solutions tailored for your unique situations.
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is the act of preparing the transfer of a person's assets and wealth after he or she passes away.
Whether you have been promoted by a major life event such as marriage or welcoming your first child, or you simply wanting to make arrangements for you and your family so that you have a backup plan, estate planning is extremely important but often appears as an underrated goal.
What are the most common forms of estate planning?
It is important to understand some of the most common forms of estate planning. Here are some for your consideration:
Wills record a will-maker's wishes, or rather, instructions, as to how they want his or her assets to be dealt with and for the benefit of whom. Making a will is equally important for younger folk.
Consider for a moment, a person who might have the following responsibilities:
Guardianship responsibilities - for their children who might still be minors and potentially other family members who are unable to take care of themselves.
Maintenance of family members such as a financially-dependent partner who might be left in need if the breadwinner of the household suddenly passes away.
Financial responsibilities - mortgages, credit cards, loans, debts. These are all liabilities that need to be settled by a person's estate.
We offer competitive rates for the preparation of wills including wills for individuals, couples, and wills with testamentary trusts. If you have an existing will in place, we also offer a review and an update service whether by way of a new will or a codicil.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney can be used in circumstances where someone is unable to make their own decisions. A donor of the power can appoint an attorney for a fixed period of time (general power of attorney), or it can last until the maker revokes it (enduring power of attorney) either by way of revocation or a new power of attorney. When the donor of the power dies, the power of attorney is automatically revoked.
A power of attorney can contain conditions the principal wishes to impose on the attorney. However, an attorney cannot make decisions about medical treatment for the attorney.
All Victorian adults can consent to or refuse medical treatment. At times or circumstances when a person is unable to make such decisions, it is the role of the appointed medical treatment decision-maker to make the decisions for the principal. The person appointed will have the legal authority to make medical decisions when the principal cannot do so. Examples of medical treatment include treatment for an injury, operation, and treatment for medical illness.
A principal is only able to have one medical treatment decision-maker at a time, but a back-up medical treatment decision-maker can also be appointed should the primary medical decision-maker not be available.
Appointment of guardians and administrators
VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) can appoint a guardian and/or an administrator for adults with disabilities.
A guardian makes personal lifestyle decisions on behalf of a person with a disability such as their living, work arrangements, and medical treatment. An administrator, on the other hand, makes decisions about financial and legal matters such as buying or selling property, banking and investing, paying bills, and managing debts.
Trusts and other financial arrangements
We often assist our clients in setting up trusts for carrying on businesses, for maintenance of family members, or simply for tax planning. Regardless of motives, a trust instrument can be an efficient vehicle for individuals, businesses, and family units.