Asset Protection

The difference between joint tenants and tenants in common

You own property with another person and you are in the process of making a Will.

Of course, you want your interest in the property to go to your intended beneficiaries.

Your solicitor asks you if you own the property as “joint tenants” or as “tenants in common“. You stop and think…

Until now, you had no idea that there was any difference between joint tenants and tenants in common and had probably never considered it.

The concepts are the same for any asset, but are more commonly used in relation to land. So what is the difference?

What is tenants in common?

The simplest way to think about owning real estate (or real property) as tenants in common is that each owner has a legal interest in the land in a defined or specific share or proportion.

For example, the phrase “as tenants in common in equal shares” means that each owner has an equal interest in the land (so in the case of 2 owners, they each hold a 50% interest and in the case of 3 owners, they each hold a 1/3 interest).

Where property is owned as tenants in common but in unequal shares, the proportion of ownership is specifically stated (such as “John Smith as to 1/4 share and Bob Brown as to 3/4 share as tenants in common”).

With tenants in common, each owner (subject of course to any Co-Ownership Agreement or encumbrance such as a Mortgage or Caveat) may freely transfer or dispose of their share of the property, including in their Will when they die.

On their death, their interest in the property will be included in the inventory of property annexed to the grant of Probate or if they don’t have a Will, annexed to the grant of Letters of Administration.

What does joint tenancy mean?

Joint tenants however each own the whole of the relevant asset. The concept is that the co-owners’ ownership of the asset overlaps such that on the death of one joint tenant, the remaining joint tenant/s will continue to hold the whole of the asset. This is known as the “right of survivorship“.

A deceased joint tenant’s interest in the property does not form part of their estate and is not available for distribution to the beneficiaries of that person’s Will. Often this is overlooked by those drafting Wills.

The same principles apply to bank accounts held jointly.

It is for this reason that most married couples (or those in longer term relationships) hold their property or at least their principal place of residence as joint tenants. There are however, sometimes good reasons for holding property differently as part of an overall Estate Plan. Blended families for example often necessitate this right of survivorship not being given effect to so as to more fairly distribute their estate on their death.

Other situations where a joint tenancy may be appropriate for those not in a relationship like marriage is a Lease by parties to a Partnership – the death of one partner would then not necessarily affect the continuation of the Lease.

Severing a joint tenancy

If you hold property as joint tenants with another person it is possible to sever the joint tenancy – which then converts it to a tenancy in common in equal shares.

This can be done unilaterally by lodging the appropriate documentation at NSW Land Registry Services (formerly NSW Land & Property Information and the Land Titles Office) and is often done by lawyers when parties to a marriage or de facto relationship no longer wish for the other party to own the entire property on their death, such as when they separate or get divorced.

Mixed tenancies

It is also possible to have a combination of both a “joint tenancy” and a “tenancy in common“, such as where a property is owned by 2 families. For example,  a husband and wife may own one half of the land but they own it jointly as between them (so that if one passes away, the other continues to own it) and the brother of the husband owns the other half absolutely.

The title to the property would show “John Smith and Mary Smith as joint tenants as to 50% and David Smith as to 50% as tenants in common”.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to estate planning, changing the tenancy of a property or documenting a co-habitation or property use agreement, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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What is a Granny Flat Right?

WHAT IS A GRANNY FLAT RIGHT?

You can have a granny flat interest in any kind of dwelling, not just those typically referred to as a “granny flat” (a separate, self-contained building or living area attached to a home or property). It must be a private residence and your principal home.

You cannot however, have a granny flat interest in a property in which you have legal ownership (or your partner or a company or trust that you control).

A “granny flat right” or a “granny flat interest” is where you pay for the right to live in a specific home for life.

Granny flat interests are usually family arrangements providing company and support for older people, but they don’t have to be for social security purposes. They are created when you exchange assets, money or both for a right to live in someone else’s property for life. For example, you could:

  • transfer ownership of your home but keep a lifelong right to live there or in another private property; or
  • transfer assets, including money, in return for a lifelong right to live in a home.

The granny flat right only lasts for your lifetime. It’s not part of your estate when you die, so you can’t give it in your will as part of your estate plan.

DOCUMENTATION

A granny flat right does not have to be in writing however, given that amounts that can be paid for a granny flat right can be significant and they are usually funded by significant events like the sale of a family home, it can be a very good idea to get a lawyer to draw up a legal document so you have proof of what you and the owner have agreed to in relation to the granny flat arrangement.

A Granny Flat Right Agreement can include many things in addition to the amount paid, such as what happens if the property is sold, whether the right can be transferred to another property or what you may get back if you give up your granny flat right, as well as what regular contributions for rent, maintenance or outgoings (insurance, rates, phone etc) may have been agreed.

GIFTING RULES & THE REASONABLENESS TEST

In Centrelink/Department of Human Services terms, a “deprived asset”, also known as “gifting”, is where you give away an asset without getting something of at least equal value in return.

The value of a granny flat right is the amount paid, or the value of the assets transferred, in return for a life interest or life estate in a property.

Centrelink may apply the “reasonableness test” in determining the amount that should be paid for a granny flat right. This test is based on a formula based on a conversation factor relating to your age next birthday and the couple age pension rate.

If the amount paid is equal to or below the value determined by the reasonableness test, then there is no deprivation. However, if the amount you paid for the granny flat right is more than the cost or value of the granny flat right, the excess amount paid is considered to be a “deprived asset”.

This could affect the amount of pension you are paid.

Depending on the value of the granny flat right, you may be considered as a home owner for Centrelink (assets test) assessment purposes, even though you don’t own the home you have the granny flat right in.

WANT MORE INFORMATION?

Speak to us about how we can assist you to draft a Granny Flat Right Agreement to document your arrangements regarding the use and occupation of part of your home. We will liaise with your financial planner to cover off the financial and social security aspects as there may be other things you can do like contribute proceeds of sale to super.

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to documenting co-habitation and property use agreements and estate planning matters generally, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Downsizer superannuation contributions

*The contents of this article are general in nature – as always, you should seek financial planning advice before doing anything to alter your financial position.*

From 1 July 2018, the Australian Government will allow “downsizer contributions” into superannuation as part of a package of reforms aimed at reducing pressure on housing affordability in Australia.

This measure applies where the exchange of contracts for the sale of your home (which must be your principal place of residence) occurs on or after 1 July 2018.

If you are 65 or older, and you meet the eligibility requirements, you may be able to choose to make a “downsizer contribution” from the proceeds of selling your home into your superannuation account for an amount of potentially up to $300,000.

Importantly, your downsizer contribution is not a non-concessional contribution and will not count towards your contributions cap, nor do the normal contributions rules apply, such as the “works test”.

Downsizer contributions are not tax deductible and will be taken into account for determining your eligibility for the age pension.

If you do not meet the “downsizer contribution” requirements, then the contribution will be assessed under the normal contributions caps (and penalties may apply).

If considering a downsizer contribution, you should also look to ensure that your estate plan is appropriate and if not, put appropriate arrangements in place.

From 1 July 2018, the Australian Government will allow “downsizer superannuation contributions

ELIGIBILITY

You will generally be eligible to make a downsizer contribution to super if you can answer “yes” to all of the following:

  • you are 65 years old or older at the time you make a downsizer contribution (there is no maximum age limit),
  • the amount you are contributing is from the proceeds of selling your home where the contract of sale was exchanged on or after 1 July 2018,
  • your home was owned by you (or your spouse) for at least 10 years prior to the sale,
  • your home is in Australia (and is not a caravan, houseboat or other mobile home),
  • the proceeds (capital gain or loss) from the sale of the home are either exempt or partially exempt from capital gains tax (CGT) under the main residence exemption, or would be entitled to such an exemption if the home was a CGT, rather than a pre-CGT (acquired before 20 September 1985) asset,
  • you have provided your super fund with the downsizer contribution form, either before or at the time of making your downsizer contribution,
  • you make your downsizer contribution within 90 days of receiving the proceeds of sale, which is usually the date of settlement, and
  • you have not previously made a downsizer contribution to your super from the sale of another home.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU MAKE AS A DOWNSIZER CONTRIBUTION?

If you are eligible to make a downsizer contribution, there is a maximum amount of $300,000 that can be made.

The contribution amount can’t be greater than the total proceeds of the sale of your home.

It only applies to the sale of your main residence, and you can only use it for the sale of one home. You can’t access it again for the sale of a second home, but there is also no requirement to purchase another home.

TIMING

You must make your downsizer contribution within 90 days of receiving the proceeds of sale. This is usually at the date of settlement.

You may make multiple “downsizer contributions” from the proceeds of a single sale however:

  • they must be made within 90 days of the date you receive the sale proceeds (usually the settlement date of the sale), and
  • the total of all your contributions must not exceed $300,000 (or the total proceeds of the sale less any other downsizer contributions that have been made by your spouse).

If circumstances outside your control prevent payment within that time, you can seek an extension of time.

HOW TO MAKE A DOWNSIZER CONTRIBUTION

Before you decide to make a downsizer contribution, you should:

  • obtain financial planning advice in relation to the relevant requirements and any effect on your social security benefits or other entitlements (there may be other things to consider with any surplus sale proceeds such as acquiring a “granny flat right” and updating your estate planning documents),
  • check the eligibility requirements for making a downsizer contribution,
  • contact your super fund to check that it will accept downsizer contributions, and
  • complete a downsizer contribution form for each downsizer contribution and provide this to your super fund when making – or prior to making – each contribution

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to estate planning, business succession, superannuation or SMSFs, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Setting up a new business

Before starting a new business, the first thing that you need to consider is the structure of the entity to operate the business.

There are numerous options to choose from, such as:

  • sole trader;
  • partnership;
  • company; and
  • unit trust.

This is when it can pay to get good accounting/taxation, financial planning and legal advice as there are advantages and disadvantages associated with each type.

WHICH STRUCTURE IS THE BEST?

There is no right or wrong answer to this necessarily, although some are preferred more than others.

To determine the most appropriate structure, you need to consider what is most important for you and your family and things such as what assets/business you already have interests in, whether you intend to be in business with others or you’ll go it alone, how you intend to run the business and whether it is a long term plan or whether you intend to quickly build and sell it.

Each option has different qualities, including:

  • simplicity vs complexity,
  • asset protection vs personal liability,
  • income going to one individual vs ability to minimise tax through income splitting,
  • taxation issues on sale such as CGT exemptions; and
  • business succession planning issues.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

Once the structure has been determined, and depending on the structure to be adopted, other things that need to be covered off include:

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to starting or buying a business, drafting business documents or any other commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.