what is a wills and estate lawyer?

As a wills and estate lawyer, you specialise in wills and estate planning. You handle end-of-life affairs, help clients set up trusts, and create wills and powers of attorney forms. When your client has passed away, you administer the estate and organise the transfer of assets to their heirs or beneficiaries. The role requires extensive knowledge of estate planning and current laws related to business succession to ensure the documents created are considered valid.

Estate planning is an evolving process, and as the lawyer, you update the estate plan as circumstances change in your client's life. For instance, there may be a change in family assets, buying or selling of a business, marriage or divorce, and establishing testamentary trusts. While your clients can draft a will without your help, it is imperative that you ensure it meets the legislative requirements and is formally executed.

Aside from knowledge of wills and estate planning, you need to understand tax laws. Changes to taxation levels, insurance policies, and superannuation affect the value of assets.

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average wills and estate lawyer salary

The average remuneration package of a wills and estate lawyer in Australia is $150,000 per year. When you are new to the role, you start with a salary of $110,000 annually. The most experienced wills and estate lawyers in Australia take home a salary of $175,000 per year.

what factors affect the salary of a wills and estate lawyer?

As a wills and estate lawyer, your earnings depend on the company you work for and the size of the estate you handle. When you work for a large law firm, you are likely to handle significant estate planning and prepare wills for clients with substantial assets. The responsibilities involved in preparing wills in large estates increase your remuneration prospects. Working in smaller law firms lowers your salary expectations due to the limited resources available. Besides, you handle fewer clients in small law firms.

Metro areas and large cities have a high demand for estate lawyers, which increases your remuneration prospects. When you work in metro areas, you earn more due to the high demand, which raises the salary range. Working in areas with a low demand for wills and estate lawyers lowers your earning potential.

Want to know what you will earn as a wills and estate lawyer? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.


types of wills and estate lawyers

Wills and estate lawyers are trained to handle different aspects of estate planning and succession. As a wills and estate lawyer, you offer legal advice on wills preparation. You help clients write wills that determine the property division and how their beneficiaries and loved ones will be provided for. In preparation for advance care directives, you ensure your client’s wishes are considered in health and end-of-life decisions when they lose the capacity to make the decisions.

As a wills and estate lawyer, you are also in charge of probate and estate administration. You work with the executor to ensure estate matters are handled quickly. Some estate lawyers specialise in estate litigation or will disputes and represent clients who have been unfairly left out in the will.

smiling man in the office
smiling man in the office

working as a wills and estate lawyer

If you want to become a wills and estate lawyer, read on to discover the specific duties, responsibilities and work environments of estate lawyers.


education and skills

To work as a wills and estate lawyer in Australia, you require a law degree. Pursue a Bachelor of Law or join a postgraduate qualification like Juris Doctor if you have an undergraduate degree. When you complete your university degree, pursue a Practical Legal Training (PLT) course, which takes three months for full-time or eight months for part-time studies. Alternatively, get a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) to qualify for admission to the state bar in your territory or state.

Admission to the state bar earns you a Practising Certificate, which you will use to work under the supervision of an experienced lawyer for 24 months. It is advisable to work in a law firm with a wills and estate planning department to gain relevant experience. You should also consider joining the Australian Bar Association for professional development.

wills and estate lawyer skills and competencies

Some of the skills and qualities of wills and estate lawyers include:

  • legal knowledge: as a wills and estate lawyer, you require knowledge of succession and estate planning laws. You should also be familiar with tax laws in your client's state or territory to handle estate taxes. Having legal knowledge helps you provide comprehensive services and good legal advice on various issues.
  • teamwork: as a wills and estate lawyer, you collaborate with various professionals when preparing the will or executing your client's wishes. Your teamwork skills help you collaborate with finance professionals and insurance specialists for successful estate planning.
  • analytical thinking: as a wills and estate lawyer, you handle complicated situations associated with estate planning. Having critical thinking skills helps you resolve problems and minimise legal disputes.
  • organisational skills: as a wills and estate lawyer, you work with numerous clients on their estate planning and wills. You require good organisational skills to handle the workload of each client and manage your time effectively.

FAQs about working as a wills and estate lawyer

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a wills and estate lawyer.

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