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Where to get your will done in Canberra

17
Golnar Nekoee

Golnar Nekoee, Director Estate & Business Succession at BAL Lawyers. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re thinking about making a will.

Great! You’ve taken the first step. Your will is one of the most important documents you will make in your lifetime, and so too is the decision of which lawyer you engage to assist you.

Your will is a legal document appointing the right people to take care of your affairs, the distribution of your estate and the guardianship of your minor children after you die. So it’s essential that you get the details right.

A poorly thought-out will or a homemade will kit can make your will easier to challenge, leading to estate litigation. This can cost your estate significant amounts of money, take years to resolve and place strain on your family and loved ones.

What to consider when creating a will in Canberra

Everyone over 18 years of age should have a will. It is more common, however, to put a will in place the first time after a major life event occurs, such as buying a house, getting married, the birth of a child or following the death of a loved one.

Before you create your will, it can be helpful to consider the following:

  • Get tailored and specialised legal advice. Don’t settle for a law firm that “also does wills”. Although many lawyers offer wills, it’s important to know that wills and estate planning is a complex and specialist area of law. Your best bet is to choose a lawyer or law firm who focuses on and specialises in wills and estates. They will offer the best value for money and provide a service that is tailored to your needs. 
  • Aim for a top tier law firm. A lawyer or law firm specialising in wills and estates has the experience and expertise to approach to your affairs holistically, rather than just drafting your will. At a minimum they should consider the structure of your assets, your family, any businesses you are a part of and the care and guardianship of you children after your death.
  • Be aware that you might need more than a will. In addition to a will, your estate plan may require an enduring power of attorney, binding death benefit nomination or other estate planning document. It may not be as easy as you anticipate, but firms and lawyers specialising in wills and estate planning will know exactly what to do.
  • Look for a firm with a sensitive approach. Estate planning can involve complex family dynamics and emotional considerations, so you may want a lawyer who not only knows the law, but has a high degree of emotional intelligence. Look for a lawyer who will listen to your story, assess any risks to your estate planning, and provide advice tailored to your circumstances.

Other considerations

  • What if my family is complex or fractured? Not all families look the same and that’s okay. A skilled estate planning lawyer can provide advice and tailor a solution that achieves your objectives while minimising the risk of family disharmony and disputes, as well as costly litigation.  For example you may wish to consider tenancy in common as opposed to joint tenancy as a form of joint asset ownership.
  • I have a business, company, or trust. Can my lawyer deal with those in my will? If your financial situation is complex or involves external structures, it’s even more important to deal with an estate planning expert. Consider engaging an estate planning lawyer with specific business succession expertise. Your estate plan might need to include a plan for your business succession. An estate planning lawyer with expertise in business succession will be able to ensure that those structures pass effectively to the next generation.

The best places to get your will drawn up in Canberra – according to you

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 19 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and maintain a minimum average of 4/5 stars on both Google and Facebook reviews.

DDCS Lawyers

DDCS Lawyers

There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter approach at DDCS Lawyers. Its team understands that estate planning involves taking a holistic approach to you and your circumstances to give effect to your wishes. DDCS will work closely with you to listen to your objectives and concerns, understand your family and financial circumstances, and provide you with expert advice about the issues that are important to you. Once they’ve helped you work out an estate planning strategy, they will then ensure your wishes are captured in a legally binding will that reflects your wishes.

DDCS has a particular expertise in understanding the unique issues for blended families and families with disabled or vulnerable beneficiaries and will provide sensitive and pragmatic advice. As many people’s financial affairs become more complex, DDCS regularly assists business owners and can provide expert advice on superannuation death benefits, the tax implications of an estate plan and testamentary trusts.

DDCS has a team of dedicated lawyers who specialise in wills and estate planning. Rebecca Tetlow, partner in the Wills & Estates team, is Canberra’s only accredited specialist in Wills & Estate Law. DDCS Lawyers has been consistently ranked as a top tier wills and estate planning firm in the ACT by Doyle’s Guide.

With DDCS, you can be confident that you will receive expert legal advice from a lawyer who has understood your needs and works with you to implement your wishes.

18 Kendall Lane
Canberra CIty ACT 2601
Baker Deane & Nutt

Baker Deane & Nutt

Drafting wills can be a confronting process, requiring careful consideration and attention. Baker Deane & Nutt Lawyers (BDN) can tailor wills to suit your unique needs – from property to business ownership and investment.

BDN has serviced the legal needs of those in the Canberra & Queanbeyan region for over 150 years. It ensures client affairs are secured in preparation for the future.

If you’re looking to create a will that benefits and protects the interests of all parties involved, Baker Deane & Nutt could be the firm for you.

Level 1, 1 Farrel Place
Canberra City ACT 2601
Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers

Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers

Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers delivers expert legal advice, guidance, and representation right here in Canberra. With a team of multi-disciplinary professionals, you can expect a hassle-free will service tailored to your specific needs.

Meyer Vandenberg always puts its clients’ best interest as the number one priority. You can be confident your assets are protected and distributed to beneficiaries as you intend upon your death.

Level 2, 121 Marcus Clark Street
Canberra City ACT 2601
Bradley Allen Love Lawyers

Bradley Allen Love Lawyers

Situated in the heart of Canberra, Bradley Allen Love (BAL) Lawyers boasts a stellar reputation and impressive track record for achieving positive client outcomes.

Recognised by Doyles Guide as a top-tier wills and estates law firm, its talented team of lawyers puts client needs first, recognising how important it is to approach wills and estate planning with a compassionate yet professional attitude.

With a wealth of experience and deep understanding of all areas of estates law, BAL Lawyers takes a holistic approach to estate planning. It takes the time to consider your individual personal, family and financial circumstances to ensure clients’ wishes are understood and carried out. Its team also provides personalised advice about non-standard or complex legal issues in estates and guardianship matters.

9th Floor, 40 Marcus Clarke Street
Canberra City ACT 2601

Your experience with wills and estate planning lawyers in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the law firms listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.


What's Your Opinion?


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17 Responses to Where to get your will done in Canberra
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steveu steveu 8:21 am 13 Sep 12

jessieduck said :

Thanks everyone for the info. At 32 it’s not something I thought was necessary but we’ve learnt the hard way that as soon as you have kids and assets you really need to get a will.

You are a smart person, age is irrelevant IMHO and you have made a good point. When I get some time away from work as my will is hopelessly out of date.

Nightshade Nightshade 10:20 pm 12 Sep 12

Curiously, the NSW Public Trustee charges only half as much as the ACT one, since their sliding scale goes in increments of $100,000 rather than $200,000:
Up to $100,000 – 4.4%
From $100,001 to $200,000 – 3.3%
From $200,001 to $300,000 – 2.2%
$300,000 and above – 1.1%

Apparently the charges are set by the state/territory government.

jessieduck jessieduck 9:46 pm 12 Sep 12

Kurrajong said :

On the Public Trustee charges, I confirmed with them that they would charge 4% to transfer the title of a family property to our child.

That amounted to $26,0000 !!! .

Jeepers that’s a ton of moolah. On second thoughts it might be best to just go to a normal lawyer.

Thanks everyone for the info. At 32 it’s not something I thought was necessary but we’ve learnt the hard way that as soon as you have kids and assets you really need to get a will.

Kurrajong Kurrajong 11:45 am 12 Sep 12

On the Public Trustee charges, I confirmed with them that they would charge 4% to transfer the title of a family property to our child.

That amounted to $26,0000 !!! to do what a family executor or solicitor could do at the Land Titles office for something like a couple of hundred dollars.

It convinced me that it was better to go with a family executor who was willing to do the job and a solicitor as fallback.

Nightshade Nightshade 10:29 pm 11 Sep 12

RedDogInCan said :

The Public Trustee charges a fee to write up your will and a % fee only if they are the executors of the estate, which is not mandatory. My will was written up by the Public Trustee and only nominates them as the executor of last resort – that is only if my other nominations refuse to do it.

At least the Public Trustee specifies a fixed fee up front. As the executor of two estates my experience is that wills and estates bring out the worst gouging in lawyers. The more complex it is, the more reasons they find to charge you. We even had one lawyer tell us not to worry about the legal fees as ‘it is paid from the estate’.

The Public Trustee website currently says “The Public Trustee can prepare your Will only where nominated as the Executor to administer your estate.” Is that a change since you had yours done?

I’m rather put off by the fees quoted:
• assets up to $200,000 4.40%
• next $200,000 (ie $200,000-$400,000) 3.30%
• next $200,000 (ie $400,000-$600,000) 2.20%
• greater than $600,000 1.10%

Given the price of houses these days and the amount of money needed to fund retirement, these %s would quickly add up to a lot (if you haven’t lived to spend it all). Is this really the standard rate?

RedDogInCan, as someone who’s been an executor and knows the work involved, do you think these fees are reasonable? Is it so much work that family members would rather not be asked to be the executor, and have the estate pay this much to lawyers instead? I’d really like to know.

troll-sniffer troll-sniffer 6:03 pm 11 Sep 12

shirty_bear said :

We used Colquhoun Murphy in Braddon … no hassles, no complaints.

+1 for these guys, hassle free conveyancing for me last time.

Innovation Innovation 6:03 pm 11 Sep 12

MelonHead said :

Read the fine print if you decide to use the Public Trustee. In my case, they offered “free will” to my mother with the proviso that they be named executors. An offer too good to be true. Had the family known, we would have paid almost any solicitor any reasonable fee.

When came time to execute this will, the Public Trustee were as uncaring as you could possibly be. As well as quite rude and difficult to deal with.

They had the last laugh. Their fee was 4%. Of the GROSS VALUE OF ALL ASSETS. Not net value. Not some reasonable fee.

After the estate was finalised, the family calculated we had paid about 2.5 to 3 times the cost of any competent solicitor’s execution of a similar estate. This estimate was based on a spate of deaths in the family at the time.

These event happened more than 10 years ago, but a quick look at the Public Trustee web site seems to indicate that not much has changed.

Get reputable and competent solicitor. Pay them for their time and expertise. Enjoy the knowledge that the job is done right.

You could always take a copy, make your own and nominate your own Executor(s). Or sign the one they offer and make a new one the next day “This is my last will and testament”. But the Public Trustee has always worked well in my experience. And RedDogInCan 2 #5 these things bring out the worst in (potential) beneficiaries as well as laywers…..so lock it in as best you can but don’t put it off…..

mmillercfp mmillercfp 5:01 pm 11 Sep 12

Rebecca Tetlow at the newly merged Bradley Allen Love (6274 0999 or http://www.bradleyallen.com.au) and Paul Salinas at Certus Law (6268 9090 or http://www.certuslaw.com.au) have both looked after clients of mine very well and I am happy to recommend.

Both participate in regular estate planning seminars so are very current in the field.

shirty_bear shirty_bear 3:22 pm 11 Sep 12

We used Colquhoun Murphy in Braddon … no hassles, no complaints.

colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 1:56 pm 11 Sep 12

MelonHead said :

Read the fine print if you decide to use the Public Trustee. In my case, they offered “free will” to my mother with the proviso that they be named executors. An offer too good to be true. Had the family known, we would have paid almost any solicitor any reasonable fee.

When came time to execute this will, the Public Trustee were as uncaring as you could possibly be. As well as quite rude and difficult to deal with.

They had the last laugh. Their fee was 4%. Of the GROSS VALUE OF ALL ASSETS. Not net value. Not some reasonable fee.

After the estate was finalised, the family calculated we had paid about 2.5 to 3 times the cost of any competent solicitor’s execution of a similar estate. This estimate was based on a spate of deaths in the family at the time.

These event happened more than 10 years ago, but a quick look at the Public Trustee web site seems to indicate that not much has changed.

Get reputable and competent solicitor. Pay them for their time and expertise. Enjoy the knowledge that the job is done right.

the fees outlined on their website are pretty standard for an executor, if anything they are a bit lower than most.

MelonHead MelonHead 1:41 pm 11 Sep 12

Read the fine print if you decide to use the Public Trustee. In my case, they offered “free will” to my mother with the proviso that they be named executors. An offer too good to be true. Had the family known, we would have paid almost any solicitor any reasonable fee.

When came time to execute this will, the Public Trustee were as uncaring as you could possibly be. As well as quite rude and difficult to deal with.

They had the last laugh. Their fee was 4%. Of the GROSS VALUE OF ALL ASSETS. Not net value. Not some reasonable fee.

After the estate was finalised, the family calculated we had paid about 2.5 to 3 times the cost of any competent solicitor’s execution of a similar estate. This estimate was based on a spate of deaths in the family at the time.

These event happened more than 10 years ago, but a quick look at the Public Trustee web site seems to indicate that not much has changed.

Get reputable and competent solicitor. Pay them for their time and expertise. Enjoy the knowledge that the job is done right.

jessieduck jessieduck 1:03 pm 11 Sep 12

Thanks guys. Our own estate won’t be overly complicated, it’s just that we also need to have a lawyer witness some other documentation so I think the Public Trustees might be perfect. Just outside the scope of Will Kit territory,

Hey, here’s something you might not know. If you want to donate your body to science, you can’t unless it is in writing. It’s not the same as donating organs (ie, you’ve indicated your consent and then the family OKs it) Unfortunately we just learned this the hard way and had to go through a crappy cremation experience instead of being able to do what the deceased had wished for. Fun times.

RedDogInCan RedDogInCan 11:35 am 11 Sep 12

mezza76 said :

Please be aware that public trustees also charge a % fee based on the nature of your will and estate when it is executed. That’s always been a turnoff for me – although the fees in itself wouldn’t be huge – I’d just rather pay upfront. More info can be found here:
http://www.publictrustee.act.gov.au/wills

The Public Trustee charges a fee to write up your will and a % fee only if they are the executors of the estate, which is not mandatory. My will was written up by the Public Trustee and only nominates them as the executor of last resort – that is only if my other nominations refuse to do it.

At least the Public Trustee specifies a fixed fee up front. As the executor of two estates my experience is that wills and estates bring out the worst gouging in lawyers. The more complex it is, the more reasons they find to charge you. We even had one lawyer tell us not to worry about the legal fees as ‘it is paid from the estate’.

dtc dtc 11:21 am 11 Sep 12

Ross Watch at Tetlow Tigwell Watch lectured on wills and stuff at the ANU/legal workshop for years and on law society committees etc, so might be worth a go.

As Kurrajong said, dont get too complicated. Firstly, its only relevant after you are dead so don’t try to control your money too much – you don’t care by that stage. Secondly, the more complicated the more costly (both now and in the future). Drawing up a simple will will take a few hours, if you start having trusts and complicated requirements you are looking at 10hrs+ (at $400 per hour).

mezza76 mezza76 11:15 am 11 Sep 12

We are going through the same process ourselves and are looking at a lawyer rather than a public trustee.

Please be aware that public trustees also charge a % fee based on the nature of your will and estate when it is executed. That’s always been a turnoff for me – although the fees in itself wouldn’t be huge – I’d just rather pay upfront. More info can be found here:
http://www.publictrustee.act.gov.au/wills

We’ll probably give Slater & Gordon Online Will a go and see how that works out given our estate will be quite simple. I think the fee is about $150.
https://online.slatergordon.com.au/sgo/

afl4act afl4act 10:13 am 11 Sep 12

Very happy with Public Trustee experience. – probably depends on how complex your needs are, but it would be worth calling them anyway.

Kurrajong Kurrajong 9:52 am 11 Sep 12

I have used Dibbs Barker in Canberra House for many years.

If children are involved, I would seriously look at your will creating a Testamentary Trust rather than a simple distribution of your estate. It costs more to set up but it leaves them with many advantages and protection of assets.

Don’t make the will too complex and have a good hard think about what you need before you go to the lawyer, or you will end up paying for their time to unpack it from your head.

Alternatively, look at the Public Trustee in London Circuit. Their website lists the fees which are a few hundred dollars.

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