Why make a Will?

It’s certainly not an easy topic to think about, but what would happen to your family if you died? Would your partner be able to meet the mortgage repayments without your contributions? Have you agreed on a suitable guardian for your minor children? Planning for the future might be scary, but it is also something that every adult needs to consider and make arrangements for. Trust us – you will feel much better once you have your affairs in order.

At Stone Group Lawyers, we regularly advise clients on all aspects of estate planning, from setting up testamentary trusts for your beneficiaries, distributing your assets, dealing with superannuation and life insurance, and appointing guardians for your minor children.

By making a Will, you can direct how your property is to be distributed following your death.

If you die without a Will, the laws of intestacy will apply to your Estate. This means that your assets may be sold to satisfy debts and will be shared among your relatives. If a deceased is survived by their spouse and children, their spouse will receive the household chattels (furniture, whitegoods etc.), the first $150,000 of the Estate and either half or a third of the residue of the Estate (depending on the make-up of your family). The children will receive the balance of the Estate equally between them. This can be problematic where you have recently separated from a spouse, have estranged relationships with any of your children, have remarried and have step-children, or wish to make particular provisions for certain family members.

Dying without a Will means that your family members will need to apply for Letters of Administration and each stake their claim for an interest in your Estate. This will be heard in the Supreme Court of Queensland, and can be a slow, expensive process for your family members to endure when they are already grieving your death. Your family members may also struggle to agree on how your Estate should be administered, which could lead to unwanted disputes between family members. This is not a pleasant experience and not one that you would wish to impose on anyone. It is far easier to draft a Will with comprehensive instructions to your executors on how and to who your Estate should be left.

A Will gives you the opportunity to appoint your trusted friends or family members to act as the Executor of your Estate. Your Executors will:

  • handle your funeral arrangements;
  • manage all your assets;
  • pay off any debts;
  • apply to the Court for a Grant of Probate (if required); and
  • distribute your assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of your Will.

Often people try to avoid engaging a lawyer to assist them in drafting a Will and instead opt for a ‘do-it-yourself will kit’. These documents can be problematic, especially if they include provisions which are not sufficiently certain, or they are not completed correctly. There are legal requirements to comply with when making a Will, and if such formalities are not in place, legal costs could be incurred by your estate to prove that your Will is in fact a true representation of your testamentary wishes. The process of proving a homemade Will can be more expensive and time consuming than it would have been to engage a lawyer from the beginning.

If you do not already have a Power of Attorney or an Advance Health Directive in place, then we can assist you in drafting these as well.

Stone Group Lawyers can assist you with all your estate planning needs, and can work with you to ensure that you have peace of mind that your loved ones will be provided for following your death.

Book your complimentary 45 minute consultation today.

Domestic violence is an issue that is well documented and gaining awareness in our society with a focus on protecting the victims, who are predominately women. Without discounting the severity of domestic violence toward women, this article focusses on identifying the other issues in our legal sphere which may have been overlooked.

It has commonly been questioned whether or not the domestic violence in our legal system is unfair to men and unable to cater for individuals in LGBTIQ relationships.  The common presumption exists that all men are the perpetrators of domestic violence. Further, we are failing to recognise the large prevalence of domestic violence in LGBTIQ relationships. It is important to note that with the limited options in both of these topics to look at whether or not we have adequate support services available to individuals involved in domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Support – Men vs Women

Domestic violence is becoming more of a serious concern due to an increase in serious violent incidents occurring around Queensland. The Southport Court House in the Gold Coast opened its own specialised domestic violence court room in 2015 with two domestic violence Magistrates who hear matters surrounding domestic violence laws only.

In Queensland, female victims of domestic violence are provided a number of support services from providers such as Centacare, Domestic Violence Prevention Centre, DVConnect, Domestic Violence Hotlines and many other small scale operations. Statistics show that these services are relied upon more and more each year. For example, DVConnect had an increase of 700 motel nights in 2016 provided to women needing to leave the family home. In contrast, although there are some services for men who are the victims, availability to men is significantly reduced (in particular, funding wise), and instead, support focusses on rehabilitating men from violent behaviour and ensuring they are part of an intervention program.

Observations from our firm in particular have shocked a number of our lawyers to see that there is a support / victims room at the Southport Magistrates Court, only provided to women with a separate entrance to the court room. With the importance of this room identified, it can be argued that the Southport Magistrates Court should provide an equal service to men. We flag this as an issue of particular concern when our office represents men as the victim/aggrieved in many of our matters.  To emphasise this point, according to a study by the ABS Personal Safety Survey by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety approximately 694,100 men reported experiencing at least one incident of violence by a female partner since the age of 15. Although the women’s statistics are approximately four times higher, it should not discount that the amount of men experiencing domestic violence is also extremely large and of serious concern.

LGBIT Domestic Violence Support

The focus in Australia, particularly Queensland in the context of domestic violence is on heterosexual relationships. Individuals in sexually or gender diverse communities who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer are often overlooked and the limited research is not promoted nearly enough.

The Australian Research Centre for Health and Sexuality has conducted a study on LGBTIQ individuals showing alarming statistics. 41% of male-identifying respondents, and 28% of female-identifying respondents have experienced physical violence within a same-sex relationship. Of these figures, approximately 25% reported that they have experienced sexual assault.

AIDS Council has identified domestic violence as a ‘silent epidemic’ in this community and our lawyers agree.  Unfortunately the barriers to accessing support services remains highly limited due to the following reasons:

  1. An inability to view intimate partner violence outside of a heterosexual framework;
  2. An assumption that partner violence in LGBTIQ relationships is mutual;
  3. Insensitivity / lack of awareness of this community;
  4. Discrimination from the wider community, in particular the criminal justice system and police; and
  5. Stigmas associated with these sexual preferences.

Whilst there are limited resources available to the public, we recommend anyone in a domestic violence situation who require support to contact www.anothercloset.com.au who provide a range of services specifically tailored to this area.

How we can help you

At Stone Group Lawyers, our family lawyers are passionate about all areas of family law and domestic violence. We endeavour to maintain up to date knowledge of the laws, resources and community access opportunities for our clients. We remain observant of the current issues in Queensland and will play our part in any improvement of the systems in place.

If you or anyone you know has experienced domestic violence, our lawyers are able to assist you whether or not you are in a heterosexual relationship or identify as LGBTIQ. We understand there may be deficiencies in the support services available, however it is important to our lawyers to be able to assist where they can.