If you have a very large estate and are thinking about what would happen in the event of your death, then you may be focused on writing your last will and testament. You will have a broad idea of how you want the estate to be distributed, and this may involve a large allocation to some beneficiaries versus others. However, you may be worried that your wishes may not be addressed when all is said and done, should one or more of those beneficiaries be unhappy. What can you do to make sure that your estate is not contested and that everything is distributed in accordance with your will?
Will in Dispute
In basic terms, an executor must comply with the terms of the will and distribute money or assets accordingly. However, this does not stop one of the beneficiaries from contesting the will if they feel that it is inequitable or that their needs have not been accounted for. This challenge can tie up the estate for a considerable period of time and, should the plaintiff be successful, could certainly affect how much the other beneficiaries may receive.
There are a number of ways to address this situation prior to the execution of the will.
For example, if you want to ensure that one individual gets a significant part of your estate come what may, then it may be better for you to assign that asset to them while you are still alive. If this is not entirely practical, then you may be able to set up a discretionary trust. This is a separate legal entity and not effectively owned by you, so will not become part of your estate when you die. You can nominate somebody to be the trustee who will maintain control upon your passing, and nobody will be able to make a claim against the assets contained therein.
You may also be able to take out a life insurance policy and include specific instructions within that. Once you die, a certain beneficiary will receive the proceeds and, once again, this will not be part of the estate, per se.
Some people take more radical steps and may transfer some of the major assets to a foreign jurisdiction. In this way, the proceeds will not be subject to Australian inheritance laws and may not be touchable.
These are just some of the ways that you can protect your assets and make sure that your wishes are met. Talk with a lawyer to understand the specifics or to find out about other options.
To learn more about protecting your will, reach out to an estate lawyer near you.Share