Estate Planning

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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SMSF owns property. Member dies. Oh oh!

Do you, like many Australians, have a self managed superannuation fund (SMSF)?

If you want to own direct investments within your superannuation or have greater control of your superannuation portfolio, a SMSF can be a suitable alternative to retail superannuation funds.

SOME ADVANTAGES OF SMSFs

SMSFs have:

  • direct investment choice
  • access to wholesale managed funds
  • the benefit of being able to combine the superannuation balances of up to 4 people
  • the advantage of 15% taxation on investment earnings (as opposed to marginal or company tax rates) and potentially reduced capital gains tax
  • the ability to assist with estate planning and possibly for non-lapsing binding death benefit nominations

DIRECT PROPERTY

Often seen as a key advantage is the ability of an SMSF to invest in direct property, such as owning office or factory space from which a business operates from (assuming your SMSF’s Investment Strategy allows for direct property).

Where member balances are insufficient to buy a property outright, SMSFs can also borrow but only using a limited recourse borrowing arrangement (LRBA) using a bare trustee that holds the property on behalf of the SMSF for the duration of the loan and once the debt is paid, the legal ownership of the property passes to the SMSF.

Property values hopefully go up over the next 20 or so years and the members benefit from and can live happily off the benefits during retirement …

… well that’s the plan anyway. So, what happens if a member dies or gets really sick a few years into the plan? (hint – it can ruin everything, for the other members).

CONSEQUENCES OF DEATH OR TPD

On the death of a member, that member’s superannuation balance is to be paid out (to the member’s estate of their nominated beneficiary/ies) as soon as is practicable.

On the total and permanent disablement (TPD) of a member, the member may be able to exit from the SMSF and call for their member balance to be paid out.

… but if the SMSF’s cash is all tied up in the property and the property is still subject to the LRBA, where does the money come from to pay out the member balance?

The property may have to be sold to fund this! That is, unless there is a SMSF Member Death & TPD Exit Deed in place.

SMSF MEMBER DEATH & TPD EXIT DEED

A SMSF Member Death & TPD Exit Deed can help in reducing the financial effects arising from the unexpected death or TPD of a member by for example:

  • requiring the SMSF members to effect a life insurance policy over the lives of the other members and where there is a death and a payout under the policy, the policy owners contribute funds to the SMSF with the intention of paying out the deceased member’s superannuation balance (and using any remainder to reduce or pay out any debt on the property under the LRBA); and
  • requiring the SMSF members to either put in place appropriate TPD cover or to agree that on the occurrence of a TPD event of a member, that member may remain a passive investor in the SMSF but cannot immediately call for payment of their member balance, even if they would otherwise be entitled to under the superannuation legislation, but rather, if they want the payment, their member balance is to be paid out over several years (ie, from the SMSF’s cashflow).

Unless there are appropriate insurances in place or an agreement for members to only get paid out benefits over time in the event of a TPD event, then the likely outcome of the death or TPD of one member is the sale of the SMSF’s property.

This can be a particularly bad problem if the SMSF has only recently acquired the property and had therefore incurred all of the legal, financial planning and accounting costs as well as stamp duty, but had no time for the asset to generate income or appreciate in value. The death or TPD of the one member therefore affects up to 3 other members who may not even be related to the affected member!

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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SMSF owns property. Member dies. Oh oh!

Selling your business?

So you have an offer to buy your business. How exciting!

Although there may be agreement on the price being paid and the amount of deposit, what else needs to be considered?

  • How is the price apportioned between goodwill and equipment?
  • Have you considered the costs associated with the sale – you may have an agreement with a business broker, but there are lawyers, accountants, financial advisers also.
  • What about tax, capital gains tax (CGT) in particular, and is GST payable?

Who does what?

You need good advice. You are great at what you do, but you cant do everything. You need a great team of advisers – this is their thing.

Your lawyer will be required to prepare the legal documents that give effect to the sale (such as Business Sale Contract, Share Sale Agreement, Deed of Restraint, Deed of Consent to Assignment of Lease, Employment Contracts, Deed of Novation, Consultancy Agreements etc… yes, there may be others).

Your accountant can advise on the price apportionment and taxation implications, whether GST is payable or not, and how to make the most of any CGT concessions, exemptions and rollover relief such as those relating to small business and retirement.

Your financial adviser can give you advice on what to do with your cash to make the most of it now or in retirement.

What are you actually selling?

It would seem obvious, but have you considered what you are actually selling? Are you selling your business or, in the case of a company or unit trust, the entity that owns it?

There is a big difference, particularly given that entitlements to income and liability for expenses incurred prior to completion of the sale will remain with the vendor under a business sale whereas in the case of a share sale, the whole lot will be under the control of the purchaser from completion.

This will also affect how much due diligence a purchaser may undertake – as any prudent purchaser would have concerns about potential claims, tax debts etc

The usual things

Assuming a sale of business, not a share sale, some of the other things to consider is what is included in the sale?

  • Business name
  • Plant and equipment used by the business
  • Stock
  • Customer lists
  • Agreements with suppliers, referrers… to the extent they can be transferred
  • Phone/fax numbers, logos, domain names, email addresses social media etc
  • Intellectual property – do you have any trademarks?
  • Licenses/permits to operate the business
  • Are staff being terminated or transferring to the purchaser? What are employee entitlements are due?
  • Are the business premises leased? Is the agreement subject a an assignment of the existing lease or the granting of a new lease?
  • Personal Property Securities Register issues – for example, is the telephone system under a hire purchase agreement? Is the photocopier leased?
  • Do you need the consent of anyone to the sale proceeding? Eg, a franchisor, a mortgagor, someone you have given a first option to purchase to for example?
  • Are there to be restraints of trade/non-competition provisions that affect you? What about for key staff?

Although an exciting time, there are many issues that need to be considered when you are selling your business. The abovementioned items are certainly not an exhaustive list of things to consider and every business is different, but hopefully it gets you thinking about what you may need to consider when selling your business.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to buying/selling businesses, intellectual property or any commercial law matter, 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 legal concerns or objectives.

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Superannuation Death Benefit Nominations

Did you know that on your death, your superannuation balance will not necessarily be dealt with in accordance with your wishes unless you have a valid beneficiary death benefit nomination in place. That’s right, your Will probably doesn’t have any effect as regards your super.

The trustees of most super funds have a discretion as to who to pay a benefit to and usually, the fund rules specify the member’s dependants as the class of beneficiaries to be considered first, with the trustee to determine the amounts/proportions.

Imagine what happens if you are separated (but not divorced) and you are living with another person (as a de facto) – a dispute could easily arise. What if you have children? What would/should the split be?

If you have no dependants, the trustee will likely pay it to your estate, but why take the risk? and does your Will adequately deal with that asset?

To minimise disputes and avoid applications to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal or the Supreme Court of NSW, make a nomination. There are generally 2 types: Non-binding and Binding

NON-BINDING NOMINATIONS

A non-binding nomination is an indication to your trustee of your preferences but it is, as it states – non-binding so the trustee can ignore it. This can be a good idea if there are significant changes in circumstances before your death where you haven’t got around to updating your nomination. The trustee’s discretion could prevent it going to your ex or avoid the situation of you accidentally omitting one of your kids from a benefit.

BINDING NOMINATIONS

A binding nomination is exactly that – binding (provided that it is valid as at the date of death). There are 2 sub-categories of binding nomination: lapsing and non-lapsing.
  • LAPSING – Most funds provide for the lapsing type – these need to be renewed every 3 years or the nominations lapse.
  • NON-LAPSING – Some Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) and some retails funds allow in their deeds for nominations that never lapse (unless you update it). Older SMSF Deeds and their Rules do not allow for the non-lapsing type and may need to be updated.

There are requirements for making any nomination legally valid, witnesses etc.

Speak to us about your estate planning and ensure your wishes are properly documented.

FURTHER INFORMATION
If you would like any further information in relation to superannuation death benefit nominations or updating SMSF deeds , please contact us on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

Minimizing risk in your business

Running a business is risky and small businesses can be especially so. Minimizing risk in your business is crucial.

Often, SME owners put their own personal assets on the line, whether to borrow funds from a lender to start up or buy stock or equipment or by signing a guarantee in relation to suppliers and others for the debts of the business.

There are several methods of protecting personal assets from creditors, but it is a process that many don’t follow. Some are quite simple and easy to put in place. They include…

Placing assets in a spouses’ name or in a family trust

In most circumstances, creditors will not be able to make a claim upon assets owned by your spouse or held by a discretionary trust, provided that you are not the trustee. If your spouse is the trustee, then he or she is the person who will usually decide how to divide up the income or capital of a trust (or not to).

Of course, stamp duty and capital gains tax issues must also be considered before acquiring or transferring assets as well as the potential operation of claw back provisions. The loss of the principal place of residence CGT exemption or the land tax issues may be a factor weighing against doing this.

In the end, it is weighing up risk vs benefits and making an informed decision regarding any asset protection measures.

Encumbering assets if you cannot transfer them

An asset that is mortgaged to its value is not attractive to a creditor. The mortgagee in such a case is the only entity that will benefit from the subsequent sale of the asset.

A guarantee form a person without assets is effectively valueless. Often businesses don’t check to see what a guarantor actually owns.

If you seek a guarantee from a director of another business, you could make some inquiries about their credit/financial position before creating an account,

Correctly structuring your business

Sometimes it is not feasible to establish an asset-holding entity and a trading entity (as many small business start-ups are strapped for cash) but it can be a great way to protect the business assets from day to day trading risks. Even getting the type of business structure right from the beginning (sole trader, partnership, company, trust or combination etc) can have a massive impact on your business.

It is possible to establish a company with a single director  and/or single shareholder. The company dealing with third parties, supplies, customers and the like is the entity that may be liable to them, not the shareholders.

The shareholders are only liable to the company for the unpaid amounts (if any) on any issued share capital. This liability is usually a nominal amount such as a dollar. Shareholders have no liability to third parties unless they agree to it, such as by giving a guarantee.

Company directors may have some liability but only in limited circumstances can the corporate veil be lifted. Courts may be prepared to lift the veil in limited circumstances, such as in the case of insolvent trading, fraud or misrepresentation, inappropriate transactions or where public policy requires it.

Charging assets (and properly recording the charge)

Before lending money to your business, a charge should be created in the correct form and that form recorded as against assets such as real property (by way of mortgage recorded at Land and Property Information or another State’s land titles registry) or against non-real estate assets (by way of a Specific or General Security Deed and making a registration on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR)) to secure repayment of that money in preference to other creditors should the business fail.

Having proper terms of trade

Most businesses, if they have them at all, have terribly inadequate terms and conditions of trade. Often they are just copied and pasted from other documents and not tailored, leaving businesses thinking they are adequately protected when they really are not covered at all.

T&Cs should be built to protect your particular business and should be a work in progress, tweaked to solve or prevent problems that have arisen in your business from occurring again,

Avoiding personal guarantees altogether

A guarantee is a contract by which a guarantor promises that another person or entity will comply with his, her or its obligations to a third party and if they don’t, the guarantor will. The most common example involves bank loans where a guarantor such as a parent promises to repay the loan of their child if the child defaults.

Becoming a guarantor can be extremely risky, particularly when large liabilities are involved. Under most guarantees, the guarantor becomes immediately and primarily liable to repay the debt (and the lender does not have to wait for attempt to recover from the borrower before calling on the guarantee).

As a practical matter, many businesses cannot obtain finance unless a personal guarantee is provided. If this is the case however, whenever the loan is actually repaid or if the business can prove it is financial stable and secure, the guarantee should be discharged so that the guarantor cannot continue to rely on it at a later date concerning subsequent transactions.

Managing staff

One of the biggest risks to your business is that of staff leaving, and worse still, taking valuable information and assets with them.

Having appropriately drafted Employment Contracts with restraints of trade in them is a must.

Superannuation contributions

In many circumstances, superannuation entitlements can be protected from bankruptcy trustees. There may be no protection for example where the payments are made for the primary purpose of defeating creditors.

Making contributions to super is getting harder and harder with the Federal Government’s recent changes to the superannuation laws however, this can be an effective long term tool for wealth creation and asset protection. This will also usually involve the assistance of your financial planner.

Business succession planning

If you are in business with another person, what happens to your business if you or your business partner gets seriously injured or dies?

Do you have an appropriate and valid Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardians in place?

Usually having these estate planning documents is not enough. Presumably your business partner would give all of his or her assets to their spouse on their death through their Will. What if you don’t want to me in business with your business partner’s partner?

You should have in place business succession documents to deal with this such as a Buy/Sell Deed with appropriate insurances, a Shareholders Agreement (for companies), Unitholders Agreement (for unit trusts) or a Partnership Agreement (for businesses operating through a partnership structure).

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to starting a new business, commercial law, business disputes or estate planning/business succession issues 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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Why you should look at your estate planning

There are at least 3 documents you should consider as part of your personal estate planning:

  1. A will;
  2. A power of attorney; and
  3. Appointing an enduring guardian.

A WILL

A Will is a legal document that details who will take care of your assets and distribute them on your death in accordance with your stated wishes. Consider:

  • Who you would want to control your estate if you died?
  • What would happen to your estate if you didn’t have a Will?
  • Who would look after your children until they are adults?
  • That life insurance proceeds, jointly owned assets and superannuation benefits are likely not to form part of your estate on your death.
  • What would happen to your business if you died? Business succession is often overlooked or not adequately dealt with by lawyers in wills.
  • Who would control your family trust if you died? Have you even read the trust deed?
  • How your family could best receive any inheritance from your estate having regard to such things as:
    • their own estate planning; asset protection measures; and
    • tax minimisation issues.

If your Will does not consider the above issues adequately or at all, then your intended beneficiaries could be receiving far less from their inheritance than you might hope and paying more tax than is necessary each year after you die.

If you pass away without having a valid Will in place (dying intestate), then your estate will be divided up without regard to your wishes at all.

TESTAMENTARY TRUSTS 

Testamentary trusts can save your family thousands in tax each and every year though income splitting opportunities and also provide a level of asset protection to benefit future generations. See our previous article on Wills with Testamentary Trusts.

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

Who would make decisions about your finances or assets if you were unable to (such as if you are in a coma, are unconscious or suffer from mental incapacity such as dementia)?

You can appoint a power of attorney to be able to manage your affairs. If you do not, the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) can appoint a person that you do not know to control your assets and make decisions for you.

APPOINTING AN ENDURING GUARDIAN

Who would make decisions regarding your medical and dental treatment and where you live if you are permanently or temporarily incapable of doing so?

If you don’t nominate somebody as your enduring guardian, then NCAT can appoint a person to make those decisions, which can include what medical treatment you get or if life support is not maintained.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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

Deceased estate litigation

Succession Act claims

We are often called upon to advise clients in relation to claims on estates in relation to such things as challenging the validity of the Will (such as due to lack of mental capacity when the deceased person made the will or duress) or what is known as a Succession Act claim or a family provision claim (where a person says that adequate provision was not made for them in a Will). We discuss the latter here.

The purpose of the Succession Act is to seek to ensure that “adequate” provision is provided from a deceased’s estate to the family members of a deceased person (and others). Claims under the Act are based on needs.

Important facts

  • Claims must be made within 12 months of the date of death of the deceased (although in limited circumstanced, this time limit can be extended).
  • To make a claim, you must first establish that you are an “eligible person”.
  • Assuming you are an “eligible person”, you must demonstrate needs beyond the provision that was made for you in the Will (if any) for your proper maintenance, education or advancement in life.

Who is an eligible person?

Those who are eligible to make a claim for a provision out of deceased estate include:
  • A spouse of the deceased at the time of the deceased’s death;
  • A person in a de facto relationship with the deceased at the time of death
  • Children (including adopted children) of the deceased;
  • Former spouses of the deceased;
  • Someone with whom the deceased was in a close personal relationship* at the time of their death;
  • Those who have, at any time, been wholly or partly dependent upon the deceased:

- were either a grandchild of the deceased; or

- were, at any time, member of a household of which the deceased a member.

* A “close personal relationship” is a relationship other than a marriage or a de facto relationship between two adult persons, whether or not related by family, who are living together, one or each of whom provides the other with domestic support and personal care but not for reward or on behalf of another person or organisation.

What is involved?

To make a claim, the proceedings are usually commenced in the Supreme Court by way of Summons and evidence will be required in an affidavit setting out the nature and history of the relationship, contributions made to the deceased’s property and wellbeing, details of your financial need and any other relevant factors.

Simply having financial needs and showing some level of dependence on the deceased is not the end of it. The Court will have to weigh up many other factors, such as the size of the estate, the deceased’s wishes (such as those stated in a statement of testamentary intention or other similar document), competing claims from others, circumstances and events that may tend to dis-entitle a person from a benefit and so on.

Time and costs involved

Litigation is a lengthy and time-consuming process and it is an emotional one with family relationships being strained by what may be contained in affidavits or said in the witness box at a hearing. That said, often the estate pays the costs (or a large proportion of them) involved in such cases so it may not be a financial burden to enforce your rights.

Most cases settle prior hearing and usually at a mediation that can be arranged by the Court or by private agreement between the parties. Settlement is often advised to avoid the risks, costs (and emotional cost) of litigation and to help preserve any family relationships.

Often we act for the executors of an estate, but we also act for beneficiaries and those that are not mentioned in Wills at all.
Further information

If you would like any more information in relation to Wills, deceased estate litigation or estate planning/business succession issues generally, please contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

Why have a Will?

WHAT IS A WILL?

A Will is a legal document that outlines how you wish to have your assets distributed on your death. You get to choose who administers your estate for you and who and how your beneficiaries are to receive your assets.

Generally, to make a Will, you must be over 18, have proper mental capacity and sign a document in the presence of 2 independent witnesses.

If you pass away without having a valid will in place (called ‘dying intestate’) then the provisions of the Succession Act 2006 (NSW) will apply and your estate will be divided up without regard to your wishes.

Take control of who controls your estate and who inherits by putting in place a will today.

EXECUTORS

An executor is the person you appoint in your Will to deal with your estate on your death and to ensure that your wishes are carried out.  Often, people appoint 2 executors or provide for an alternate executor so that if one person is not willing (for example, due to age or infirmity) or able (for example, if they are dead or incapacitated) to act, then the other/alternate executor can act.

WHAT CAN A WILL INCLUDE?

Any asset that you own can be deal with in your will, whether bank accounts, motor vehicles, boats, jewellery or any other item. Particular items can be left to particular people, the whole of your estate can be left to one person or to several people in various fractions or percentages and conditions of gift can be imposed, such as paying out encumbrances such as mortgages.

Real property (houses and land) that is owned as ‘joint tenants’ (as is often the case for married couples) cannot be left by Will because when one joint owner dies, it automatically passes to the surviving owner. Where land is owned as tenants in common, it can be transmitted by Will. There can be good reasons for holding property in either way.

Life insurance and superannuation benefits are not able to be dealt with by a Will where specific beneficiaries have been nominated by policy owner. If the estate is nominated as beneficiary, a nomination has lapsed (they often lapse after 3 years) or no nomination has been made, the proceeds will usually be paid to the estate and distributed under the Will however, the trustee or the insurer may have discretion as to who to pay the benefit to. Your financial advisor would be able to advise you in relation to any superannuation death benefit nominations.

Often, wishes are expressed in Wills such as those relating to cremation or burial and directions regarding guardianship of infant children.

WHEN IS A NEW WILL REQUIRED?

If you get married or if you get separated or divorced from your spouse or partner or if your family circumstances change (for example, through a birth or a death or if you have a significant change to your finances, like an inheritance, bankruptcy, changes in business structure etc), you should make a new Will.

Your Will should be regularly reviewed (every few years at least) to ensure it still reflects your current wishes.

TESTAMENTARY TRUSTS

Consider whether your beneficiaries would benefit from having Wills with Testamentary Trusts as they can offer significant and ongoing benefits, including:

  • asset protection from creditors, and
  • taxation advantages such as income splitting.

This is particularly useful where your beneficiaries are in business and have their own asset protection measures in place, if they are ‘at risk’ or where you have income producing assets. Speak to us about how testamentary trusts can benefit your family.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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

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