Wills & Estate Planning

What happens if you are run over by a bus tomorrow?

How will people find your will?

Who knows about all your assets and liabilities? Where is your house title deed? Who gets your superannuation? What about the business – can it continue, is there insurance cover in place? Who has enduring guardian appointment to allow decisions about your medical treatment? And, who will look after the children?

Life and Estate Planning – what is it?

Everyone knows what a will is. There are many definitions of “estate planning”. Life and Estate Planning is simply how to get the assets which you have accumulated through your lifetime to the next generation in the best, most efficient way.

This involves looking at all aspects of your assets and liabilities and planning for the future. Depending on your situation, this may involve wills, powers of attorney or enduring guardianship documents; dealing with superannuation, Binding Death Benefit Nominations, and perhaps passing control of trusts. It may also involve “living issues” like reviewing your business structures and ownership of assets, risk management and asset protection strategies for those assets (covering everything from liability risk through to Family Law risk or bankruptcy).

What do you need to do to start life and estate planning?

The first thing to do is to summarise what you have. Unfortunately, this is often not as simple as it sounds.

The best way is to complete our Life and Estate Planning checklist. Once that is done, we can sit down with you and:

  • explain any problems or issues we identify from your checklist;
  • discuss what you want to achieve;
  • set out your options;
  • come up with what you need to do; and
  • prepare the necessary documents

Completing the life and estate planning checklist.

Our Life and Estate Planning checklist is available on request. This checklist:

  • records basic details such as names of family members and who to contact should you die or become disabled;
  • records details of your assets and liabilities, so we can identify any obvious problems (such as company or trust assets which aren’t covered by your will, whether you have a superannuation binding nomination in place, etc);
  • helps us to identify the issues you should consider (such as tax consequences, risky business management practices, beneficiaries who may be at risk, etc);
  • helps your executors understand your financial affairs and wishes, and makes administration of your estate easier and cheaper;
  • may even help you better understand your own financial, business and personal affairs.

Reviewing your Assets

Find out what is actually yours! Remember a will won’t necessarily deal with trust or company assets (but if may deal with the shareholding of a corporate trustee shareholder).

The structure and implementation of your will could be affected by whether you own your home as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common, and whether your assets are owned in your name or in joint names.

If you have an interest in a trust, do you know who the appointor is? Do you know the appointor can change the trustee and therefore take effective control of the trust?

If you have shares in a company, do you have a shareholder’s agreement? If you or your business partner die (and you don’t have shareholders agreements with appropriate pre-emptive rights clauses) you may end up sharing ownership and control of your business with an unknown person.

If you have superannuation (and you don’t have a current binding death benefit nomination), your superannuation may not go according to your will, and it may not even go the beneficiary you nominated when you joined your super fund. The trustees of your super fund often have the final say as to who will receive your superannuation.


Unless you have discovered the secret of immortality, you are going to need a will at some time. Unfortunately, human nature is such that we either turn a blind eye to the need for a will or see it as something unimportant that once made can be forgotten.

In fact, your will is something you should review at every significant occurrence in your life, and probably every few years, in any event.

Matters such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, the buying or selling of property or a business, are some of the matters which should trigger a review of your life and estate planning needs.

To make sure your wishes and desires are as fulfilled as possible, during your lifetime and on your demise, we suggest you plan your affairs by completing our Life and Estate Planning Checklist and then discussing the various issues with one of our solicitors.

How can Bull, Son & Schmidt help?

We don’t just “do wills”. We consider your overall situation, your assets, your family your business situation and any special factors.

Our broad legal experience means we can understand the multitude of issues affecting your life and estate planning decisions.

We can give you practical advice and help you balance tax, risk and commercial issues, so that you can make sensible and informed decisions about “the big picture” of life and estate planning.

If you need any assistance contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call 02 9439 5299 for a no-obligation discussion and for expert legal advice.