Estate and Succession Planning

Your will and power of attorney are only two elements of your overall estate plan that need to be considered.

Other matters when we can advise you on including setting up Family Trusts; death benefit nominations for your superannuation fund; and relevant insurances. In many cases it may also involve entering into a Financial Agreement.

Because of our vast experience in family law, we are well placed to give you technical and practical advice about how best to protect your family’s wealth, and the wealth of future generations to come, especially in the event of family breakdown.

Estate Planning case study- the Estate of Peter Brock

The Estate of Peter Brock (a famous race car driver of course) is an excellent example of the importance of proper estate planning.

By way of background, Peter had his first will prepared in 1983. It was professionally drafted and properly executed. It was then stored by his solicitor.

As time when on, Peter thought to update his will. There was a sign “WILL KIT- BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE” at his local newsagents. Peter sat down to prepare the will but when it came to filling in the details of the will kit, he said to his partner, Bev “you fill it in. You will know what to do.” Peter signed it. The will was witnessed by one witness (you need two witnesses for a valid will).

As it turned out, Bev did not fill in the details. But the will kit had a pre-printed clause, which said ‘I revoke all my previous testamentary dispositions’ (meaning that all previous wills were revoked).

Subsequent to that will kit, Peter and Bev broke up. Peter then formed a new relationship with Julie.

Peter then got another will kit and dictated his will to his assistant who was to fill out the will kit. Part way through that process, Peter’s assistant said to him that the will was becoming too complex and that Peter should have it prepared by a solicitor. They adjourn, put the incomplete will kit in a filing cabinet, not signed and not witnessed.

Peter died in 2006.

The question became, which of the three wills was the valid will?

  1. The last will was never signed or witnessed and it was not completed. It was not a valid will;
  2. The second will was not filled out but it was signed. The court through the witnessing was not fatal to the validity;
  3. The first will (prepared in 1983) was found to be revoked because of the pre-printed clause in the will kit.

So the court found that the second will was the valid will. But all it did was revoke the first will and did not contain any gifts because Peter’s request to Bev to fill out the details was not carried out. The will kit was blank.

There was a challenge to the will.

It became an expensive process with much of the value of the estate being eaten up in fees. Apparently Julie still can’t say the word ‘lawyer’ without getting upset.

This scenario could have been avoided had Peter engaged lawyers with proper expertise in estate planning.

Structuring an effective estate plan designed to remove, or at least minimise, any risk that your estate will be involved in litigation is what we do.