Bower Birds & Estate Planning – It’s All About Preparation

Preparation is important.  A male bower bird is an interesting creature.  It will expend great effort in collecting all manner of shiny objects, to build a so-called bower.  Hours are spent preparing to court a female bower bird.  Estate planning also involves a great deal of preparation in collecting things, though not necessarily any shiny objects.

I once heard a colleague describe estate planning as ensuring that the right property goes to the right person in the right way. It is perhaps a bit more than that as estate planning also involves dealing with the risk of losing capacity and may also extend to asset protection considerations. Preparing a Will is part of it, but it’s much more than that.

Estate planning is very personal.  A solution is driven by the particular priorities of the client.  It is a privilege to meet with people and learn about them and what is important to them.  I have found in doing this work for over 25 years, that though people really want you to listen to them, and “get them” what they especially want is advice.  This is the kind of advice that is given in real-time at the estate planning meeting.  It empowers people to make well-informed choices.

In order to give advice to a client in real-time, there, of course, must be a bit of a structured interview with the client, and even prior to that, a gathering of documents and other information, a little bit like our bower bird.
Set out below is a list of some of the information and things I find very helpful to have prior to giving any form of final estate planning advice:

  • The financials of each and every entity (that is full balance sheet and profit and loss);
  • Where there are loan accounts or UPEs in the financials, a full copy of the relevant ledger(s) is very helpful;
  • Where there are trusts, a copy of the instrument under which the trust was formed and any amendments;
  • In relation to companies, a full copy of the constitution and all amendments;
  • In relation to self-managed superannuation funds, as well as the trust deed(s) and financials, it is important to get the member statements and documentation under which pensions were established;
  • Title searches of all properties;
  • Historical company searches of all companies;
  • Copies of previous estate planning documents;
  • Copies of insurance policies;
  • Binding Financial Agreements or relevant court orders;
  • Shareholder / Partnership agreements (including any buy / sell agreements);
  • Details of all loans and mortgages (including, when relevant, copies of all associated documents);
  • Guarantee documents.
The above is not an exhaustive list.  And not everyone’s affairs include such a lengthy gathering of information – bower bird light, if you will.  None the less, people always appreciate their advisors being prepared.

Bryan Mitchell is an Accredited Specialist in Succession Law (Wills & Estates) Qld.

There are only 45 Accredited Specialists in Succession Law (Wills & Estates) in Queensland out of roughly 13, 000 lawyers, and Bryan Mitchell is one of them.

We offer a FREE 10-minute phone call consultation. Please contact us on +617 3373 3363.