Rigby Cooke’s team can help you work out how to structure your Will so your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. Our experts are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and so can advise on (and establish) complex instruments such as trusts and charitable foundations.

How do you best ensure the disposal or distribution of your estate after your passing?

A well drafted Will is essential to this process, yet this can be a surprisingly complex activity, particularly in today’s world with dispersed and sometimes complicated family and asset structures.

Perhaps you are a beneficiary of a Will, and need help with a dispute. Ensuring the smooth passage of an estate can be surprisingly complex, particularly across borders. Our team has significant experience helping people resolve disputes arising from Wills and trusts.

We can also assist in relation to matters involving an incapacitated person, providing VCAT and litigation services if the dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation and/or mediation.

At all times, we can draw on in-house legal expertise including tax and commercial law, and we also have the benefit of an extensive international network.

Read our complete guide to Wills & Estate Planning >>

Wills & Estate Planning

Death is not something we choose to think about often, but when you are responsible for other people, whether it be your family or your business, it is something you need to think about.

A will is the most effective way to ensure your assets are distributed in the manner you wish and your legacy is secure. If you die without a will, the State will determine what is done with your estate according to the law. This can result in outcomes that you may not be happy with.

In fact, if at some point you are incapacitated and do not have a will, the State may be able to step in and create a will for you, which can cause many problems for you and your loved ones.

At Rigby Cooke, we understand the emotions and complexities around wills and estates, and can help take the pain out of setting up your estate. We'll work with you to fully understand your situation and your wishes, and will tailor a solution to meet your needs.

As well as drafting the will, our experienced lawyers can review family trusts or business structures, implement shareholder agreements or testamentary discretionary trusts, or simply prepare an enduring power of attorney.

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • simple wills
  • complex wills incorporating testamentary trusts
  • wills incorporating charitable foundations
  • asset protection strategies 
  • business succession planning
  • personal succession planning
  • family discretionary trusts
  • superannuation succession planning
     

Probate and Letters of Administration

In most circumstances before assets of a deceased person can be distributed according to their will, the executor will require a grant of probate. This is an order from the Supreme Court that authenticates your Will and authorises the executor to distribute the estate.

If you die without a Will or the Executors appointed by your Will are unable to act, then the Supreme Court will issue letters of administration.

Rigby Cooke Lawyers can assist you or your family in obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration.

In complex cases where the estate is to be distributed to people in different countries or where assets reside in other countries, we have the resources to ensure the process remains manageable.

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • simple and complex grants of probate  
  • applications for letters of administration  
  • caveats
  • reseal of foreign grants 

Estate Administration

If you are the executor of a Will or administrator of an estate, you might need help in the administration of that estate. We can help you with advice and guidance, or we can manage the entire administration process for you.

Our experienced and respected lawyers can help you with the most complex instructions.  When beneficiaries or assets are overseas and subject to other countries’ laws our international network ensures we can assist you.

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • dealing with disgruntled or difficult beneficiaries
  • defending claims against the estate
  • complex estates
  • securing estate assets
  • recovering debts owed to the estate
  • preparing administration accounts and records
  • foreign assets
  • foreign beneficiaries
  • executor’s commission
  • taxation
  • preparing distribution statements for beneficiaries
  • complying with statutory duties
  • transfer of real and personal property
  • sale of real property

Enduring Powers of Attorney

As we grow older, many of us consider the situation where in the future, we may not be able to manage our own affairs. By establishing Enduring Powers of Attorney, we can enable people we trust to take care of our affairs should we be mentally or physically incapacitated.

In Victoria there are three different types of Enduring Powers, and each deals with a different aspect of your life management:

  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Financial) - to manage your legal and financial affairs,
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Personal) - to make health care and lifestyle decisions on your behalf, and
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Medical) - to make decisions about your medical treatment.

Rigby Cooke can assist you in preparing Enduring Powers of Attorney to ensure you have peace of mind about your future. We will guide you through the process, helping you to understand the different situations that might arise so you can make the best decision.

Our experienced and compassionate lawyers have experience dealing with many different individual situations and our services in drafting and reviewing Enduring Powers of Attorney are underpinned by this knowledge.

We can also help if you are concerned about a person who holds an Enduring Power of Attorney for someone else.

For more information on the three enduring powers of attorney in Victoria please download our information brochure.

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • drafting and reviewing Enduring Powers of Attorney
  • advising on appointments of Attorneys
  • revoking an Enduring Power of Attorney.

Guardianship & Administration

Vulnerable people need protection.

If someone you care about suffers from a disability and cannot make reasonable decisions about either their financial affairs or lifestyle, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) can appoint an Administrator and/or a Guardian to make decisions on their behalf.

Disability can affect anyone at any age and can be due to a decline in mental capacity, intellectual impairment, physical disability or brain injury.

An Administrator will make legal and financial decisions, and a Guardian will make lifestyle decisions, including where your loved one lives, who visits them and whether they should be permitted to work. 

If you have concerns about decisions being made by an incapacitated person or fear that an Administrator or Guardian is not acting in their best interests, Rigby Cooke Lawyers can help. 

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • advising on Guardianship and Administration orders 
  • preparing VCAT applications 
  • reassessment hearings 
  • appearing at mediation and VCAT hearings 
  • breach of duties by Guardians and Administrators 
  • recovery of misappropriated funds

Trust Disputes

Trusts are a common legal instrument used for the management of assets. They can be established for commercial or personal purposes, and you may consider setting up a testamentary trust as part of your will.

There are many financial and legal benefits to establishing a trust, including protection for your beneficiaries from potential negative consequences of the inheritance, but with those benefits sometimes comes conflict.

Rigby Cooke Lawyers have extensive experience in managing and resolving trust disputes. In some cases, we deal with disputes at the time the trust is being set up when the beneficiaries are involved. Other disputes arise at the time the will is executed or during the administration of the trust.

Further complexity can arise when there are international facets to the situation, such as assets or beneficiaries residing in a different country.

We can help you or your beneficiaries resolve disputes in VCAT or the courts, to ensure you get the outcome you want.

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • trust formation and advice
  • trustees’ powers
  • breaches of trustees' duties
  • beneficiaries' rights and entitlement
  • appointment and removal of trustees
     

Wills Disputes

Disputes around Wills are never pleasant. Emotions run high, and can cause lasting damage to relationships.

At Rigby Cooke, we can help you resolve your Wills disputes by representing your interests and sorting out even the most complex of situations.

Whether you are contesting a Will, questioning the validity of a Will or removing an executor, we have the experience you need to work through the many aspects of the dispute.

In our ever-shrinking world, this can mean working with international partners and experts to get the information and actions you need to achieve the result you want. We will minimise the stress and work hard to get an outcome as quickly as possible, in the most cost-effective manner.

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • Will disputes and contested Wills
  • capacity to make a Will
  • undue influence and improper conduct
  • breaches of executors’ duties
  • removal of executors
  • cy-près applications
  • Will interpretation
  • informal Wills

Learn more about Challenging a Will

International

Today we live in a global community. Family and friends are often living in different countries, and it is possible to buy or inherit property and other assets in another country.

Foreign Assets can lead to special challenges when it comes time to administer an estate. For example, the sale of property in another country requires knowledge of that country’s tax and statutory laws. In other situations, beneficiaries may be located in other countries which impose different taxes and charges on Trusts or foreign property.  Often the taxes and charges will be calculated differently depending on the citizenship or residence of the individual concerned.

In cases of trusts created by Wills, it can be difficult to locate beneficiaries who have moved from their last known location.

Rigby Cooke Lawyers have extensive experience in untangling the complexities of Wills and estates when there is an international element.

Our services include reseal of court grants (granting of probate in Victoria for foreign Wills, where there are Victorian assets to be distributed) or managing the distribution of international assets.

Our lawyers are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), a professional organisation that provides us with an outstanding international network of peers we can call on to help with your matter.

If there is a dispute around a Will or trust, and international resources are needed, our local litigation experts can team up with our international partners to get the outcome you want.

Our key areas of expertise include:

  • Reseal of foreign grants of probate
  • Grants of probate of foreign wills
  • Working with international firms

Charitable Trusts

There are many ways to “give back” to the community.

One way many people choose to do that is by setting up a charitable trust in their Will.

A charitable trust can provide financial support vital to existing charities or to individuals.  They can play an important role in society, such as supporting the poor, medical research and education.

Successful implementation of your wishes is dependent on the interpretation of those wishes by others.  To ensure your wishes are carried out effectively, it is important the trust you set up is created with appropriate thought and structuring while you are still able to have input.

Rigby Cooke lawyers understand all the implications of charitable trusts including the taxation and legal ramifications. We can help you ensure your legacy endures, and provides maximum ongoing benefit with none of the problems that beset poorly established foundations. 

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