Safeguard wills with specialist advice: Lawyer

This time of year is an ideal time to seek estate planning advice to ensure wills are up-to-date and legally valid to reflect any material family and financial changes, according to a legal expert.

Equity Trustees estate planning lawyer Stephanie Smith said such issues should be addressed early in 2018 and urged those without a will not to create it on a 'do-it-yourself' basis, but instead use a financial planner or lawyer.

"A specialist will ask the critical next level questions to ensure what you want to have happen, can happen - that your will meets your objectives and is legally binding," Smith said.

DIY wills are not quite as simple as they sound, she added. "There are some legal aspects that need to be covered to ensure the will is legally valid. But you can make the process of having one professionally drafted very efficient if you think through a few basic steps before your consultation with your estate planner or lawyer."

It's often the case that people who don't get specialist advice end up having their will challenged and overturned, creating hardship for those people who are left behind, Smith said.

She warned same-sex couples, who can legally marry as of January 9, to understand this new status revokes all previous wills.

"The only exception to this rule is when it's specifically stated that the pre-existing will was made 'in contemplation of the marriage.' Then the will remains valid," she said.

Wealth Planning Partners' Amanda Cassar said financial advisers must remember for certain superannuation funds, a binding death benefit nomination made by a client becomes invalid in the event of certain life changes.

"When members sign a binding death benefit nomination for most super funds, it will usually be valid for three years; but in the conditions it can state that it will be invalidated by an event such as marriage or the birth of a child," Cassar said.

Smith advised those with a will to review it regularly irrespective of their personal circumstances.

"If you want to ensure your will distributes your assets as you desire - which is most of us - then having it up-to-date, legally correct, practical and accurate is critically important," Smith said.

Read more: LawyerStephanie SmithAmanda CassarEquity TrusteesWealth Planning Partners
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