That’s according to Australian Unity Trustees national manager of estate planning Anna Hacker. Speaking on the Nest Egg podcast, she said most estate planners are “half therapists” as they learn the details of their clients’ family dynamics.
She explained that they often learn their clients’ “deepest, darkest secrets”, because without them it’s difficult to guard against potential challenges.
“If you don't tell us this, regardless of the expensive documents or complex documents you have in place, it won't work,” Ms Hacker said.
“It's important I think, and the clients usually understand that, but it's important that that [trust] is really quickly gained.
“In my experience … most estate planning lawyers are half therapists, because we have to know the ins and outs of the whole family dynamic. I often say I love this area, because you learn everyone's deepest, darkest secrets.”
Continuing, she explained that these details often include family relationships as it’s important to ensure the executor has both the skills to carry out the wishes of the deceased, and the will to.
“There's a protection in the legislation that says that an attorney should not act in their own interests … but that has to be noticed somehow. If someone is just going along and doing it and no one is actually watching what they're doing … they do act often in their own best interest,” Ms Hacker said.
“[It’s] not all attorneys, but we see it more and more.”
This is why it’s critical that all elements are exposed, she urged. It’s difficult to consider a child or loved one acting against ones’ wishes, but it happens.
“I always think … think of what happened. [For example]: ‘You're saying that they’re not good with money, why do you think they’d be good as an attorney?’” Ms Hacker said.
“That just doesn’t seem to make sense. ‘You’re worried about their partner’, well, if they have full control of your assets and the partner’s in their ear to do something, again, they’re not legally allowed to do it, but if they have access to everything, it might be too late by the time someone else realises what’s happening.”