The importance of a will

WORDS: Suzanne Simonot PHOTOGRAPHY Brian Usher -

When it comes to wills and estate planning, it’s hard to find a better-qualified partnership than husband and wife legal eagles Shannon and Eva McLaughlin.

IT’S an offer too good to refuse.

Leading local legal firm Cronin James McLaughlin (CJM) Lawyers offers people a free consultation to discuss one of the most important legal documents they’ll ever sign – their will.

CJM Lawyers Partner Shannon McLaughlin says having a valid will that sets out who will receive your property and possessions when you die gives you the best chance of making sure your assets go where you want them to.

“Covid has brought mortality into our conversations, which has really impacted upon an uptick in people considering their estate planning needs, which is a good thing,” he says.

“Every adult should have a will. The less you are worth, sometimes the more important it is to have a will because the administration costs of your estate are cheaper if you have a will.”

Driven to obtain the best outcome for his clients, Shannon is a renowned legal problem solver with more than 20 years’ experience in family and commercial law.

A fourth-generation Gold Coaster with expertise in property transactions, commercial leasing, estate planning and administration, Shannon was admitted to practice in 2005 after completing his five-year articled clerkship and holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws (majoring in the Commercial Stream) from the Queensland University of Technology and an MBA from Bond University.

“A lot of my clients try to spend their lifetime building wealth but you don’t build wealth and not then control where it goes,” Shannon says.

“We’re not pharaohs. We don’t get buried with our wealth so it’s very important to work out how that wealth is dealt with so it goes to the people you want it to go to.

“And that’s what we try to do. We get a holistic picture of you, your wealth, where it’s held, whether you have separate entities like trusts or companies, your super and your life insurance, where they are held, whether you have joint assets … “

Shannon’s partner Eva McLaughlin, an associate and migration agent at the firm’s Queensland office, is a solicitor specialising in estate planning such as preparation of wills, powers of attorney and the administration of deceased estates. Eva holds a Juris Doctor and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Bond University, a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas, in Austin, and studied law at Lewis & Clark Northwestern School of Law in Portland, Oregon.

Eva, who also has experience in commercial work such as leases, business sales and asset structuring, is a registered Migration Agent through the Migration Agents Registration Authority. She is particularly passionate about migration law as her family migrated from El Salvador to the US in the 1980s before she eventually moved to Australia.

The couple’s skills combine to offer clients comprehensive, individualised solutions to the complex world of estate and will planning.

“We do a free initial consultation but it’s not just getting your will done, we’ll check your existing will too,” Eva says.

She says a will can document more than just the distribution of assets and nomination of an ‘executor’ (the person in charge of wrapping up your affairs). Your will can also provide for family members in care and outline funeral instructions. If you are a parent, you can use your will to nominate a guardian for your minor children or make provisions for “blended families”.

“Every client is different so we have a chat with them and go through everything and give them advice depending on what works for them,” she says.

“Sometimes people are really happy to just get it over and done with and sometimes they like to go home and think about it.”

Shannon says it’s important to ensure your existing will still does ‘everything you want it to do’.

“You can come in with your old will and let us have a look and check that it still suits your assets. It might have suited when it was done but people buy and sell assets and entities and get into different businesses. We can fine-tune an existing will or reassure them that it does everything they want it to do.”

With variations in estate laws between state jurisdictions, ensuring your will meets your requirements can save your estate thousands of dollars in the future.

“It’s a very hard thing to get people to come in and sit down and have a chat about estate planning and their will,” Shannon says.

“People don’t like thinking about death but it’s one of those things that you do as an adult.”