Estate Planning

Where can I safely store my Original Australian Will + Power of Attorney documents in Safe Custody?

Physical Safe Custody Storage Facilities

Australia-wide Facilities

🔒 Commonwealth Bank

Safe Custody Envelope

If you have important documents – like a Will or Power of Attorney – you don’t want to leave lying around the house, the CBA's Safe Custody envelopes let you store these documents safely and securely at one of CBA's branches.

You can access your documents at any time during bank hours.

How much does it cost?

The annual fee for keeping your items in Safe Custody envelopes and/or boxes at a CBA branch is as follows:

🗄 Standard envelope supplied by the Bank - $88 p.a.* per lodgement

🗄 Non-standard envelopes - $198 p.a.* per lodgement

💰 Safe Custody box  - $198 p.a.* per lodgement

State/Territory Specific Solutions

ACT

🔒 A.C.T Supreme Court
[$125 deposit, $46 withdraw. Prices effective as at 1 August 2020];

NSW

🔒 NSW Trustee + Guardian
[$29 one-time fee for a single document; $49 one-time fee for multiple documents. Prices current as at 19 November 2020].

🔒 Custodian Vaults [Sydney, NSW]

"Legal documents take a considerable amount of effort to draw up, execute and are a costly and sometimes irreplaceable.
Items like deeds, wills, and other legal documents are best stored out of the home and in a secure centralised storage facility. These items are not necessarily best stored in the home safe and in almost all cases best kept offsite.
Custodian vaults offers vaults from $25 per month that will store not only a large quantity of legal paperwork but other personal effects like passports, jewellery and bullion.
Custodian Vaults will offer complimentary insurance up to $10,000 and a nominal amount thereafter. Our insurance is underwritten by Lloyds of London, and is significantly cheaper than any level of house and contents insurance, providing peace of mind as well as in some cases necessary compliance."

 🔒 ARA Security - Safe Custody [Western Sydney, NSW]

ARA Vaults are experts in the secure storage of a highly valuable possessions, such as gold and silver bullion, heirlooms, important documents and data, cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) and jewellery.

They provide a range of different Safety Deposit Boxes and Bullion Safes to suit your storage requirements and they offer free unlimited access to your Safety Deposit Box or Bullion Safe at their private, state-of-the-art vault facility in Western Sydney.

Their vault is equipped with highly secure technology and infrastructure, including Iris Biometric identification, to offer world-class security for your most valuable assets, investments and possessions.

NT

🔒 N.T. Public Trustee
[“You can store your Will for free at the Public Trustee office in a specially maintained vault.”];

Victoria

🔒 The Victorian Will + Power of Attorney Registry
[Anyone in Victoria can register information about where they keep their Will + Power of Attorney documents at no charge. There is also the option to physically store originals for free];

WA

🔒 W.A. Will Bank
[Free service operated by the WA Public Trustee];

Queensland

🔒 Reserve Vault [Brisbane, Queensland]

"Secure Document Wallet: Secure document storage held in individual A4 sealed Document Wallet in one of our fire resistance drawer safes. Only $99/year!

🔒 Private Vaults Australia [Redcliffe, Queensland]

Private Vaults Australia chooses  single-use bags manufactured from an opaque COEX material and utilise a high security tamper evident tape (resistant to temperature, moisture, and solvent-based tampering).

The non-see-through nature of the material provides complete privacy making them very discreet.

The bags have writable surfaces and printed with unique serial numbers and have a corresponding barcode for convenience.

Document Storage

SCEC Approved

Features            

  • Serial numbered
  • Entire surface capable of being written on with most markers and pens
  • Tear-off receipt for record keeping
  • Gold level security tape is resistant to temperature, moisture, and solvent-based tampering
  • Material – Polyethylene (PE) plastic
  • Security Closure – X-Safe Level 2
SA + Tasmania

For S.A. + Tasmania
[Contact Us].

Credits:

This FAQ was prepared by Suk Jae Chung | Practical Legal Training (PLT) Placement, Blue Ocean Law Group℠ + James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

How do I execute my Australian Will so that it is validly witnessed?

Valid Will Witnessing Requirements

We recommend that the Will-maker and the witnesses all sign immediately after each other, in each other’s presence and use the same pen.

This is still the best way to make sure a Will is validly executed because then there can be no argument that the formal requirements were not complied with.

Important: A Beneficiary should not be a witness as they may lose their entitlement under the Will. There are exceptions but we still do not recommend using them unless there is no other option.

Points to note

1️⃣ Use 2 independent adult witnesses who do not have any possibility of a beneficial interest in your estate;

2️⃣ Do not sign copies of the Will as they may become “valid” Wills;

3️⃣ Nothing should be attached to the original Will with a pin or paper clip;

4️⃣ No alterations should be made to the Will after it has been signed.

Please contact us (if you are unsure regarding any of the above) to discuss the best way to proceed to execute your Will when you are ready.

Credits:

This FAQ was written by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

Why do you need a Digital Legacy Plan?

What is a Digital Legacy?

The following definition of Digital Legacy has been extracted from the book * Digital Legacy Plan: A Guide to the Personal and Practical Elements of Your Digital Life

A legacy is anything — material, emotional or digital — that leaves a lasting effect after we pass on.
Many think of this in terms of the material goods typically described in a last Will such as your house, your car, your jewelry, etc.
It's also familiar to think about the emotional legacy we leave in the people who survive us — children, friends, colleagues.
Your legacy is also reflected in your body of work, or the impact you have had on the world around you.
What will you be remembered for?
Digital Legacy is a modern extension of what we leave behind when we pass on.

Why do you need a Digital Legacy Plan?

For entrepreneurs, artists, and other professionals

🧩 Ease of business transition and succession;

🧩 Continuity of important or confidential client or corporate work;

🧩 Transfer of hard-earned social proof and follower trust;

🧩 Preservation of personal or professional reputation;

🧩 Protection of intellectual and creative property;

🧩 Strategy for online revenues or valued marketing and sales system.

For you personally

🤔 You are empowered to determine for yourself your Digital Legacy;

🦜 Leave detailed instructions for the long-term care of your Pet/s;

🧬 Think of what you want to see in your Museum of Me; and

💡 Consider whether you want to leave behind something more meaningful than material goods such as an Ethical Will / Legacy Letter?

Resources:

➲ Free curated list of related websites + resources see our Digital Legacy ➲ Smartlist.

➲ Digital Legacy Plan: A Guide to the Personal and Practical Elements of Your Digital Life before You Die by Angela Crocker and Vicki McLeod [2019].

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

Why is making a culturally appropriate Will + Digital Legacy Plan so important for Indigenous Australians: Aboriginal + Torres Strait Islanders?

Australian Intestacy Laws have not been drafted with any consideration of what is culturally appropriate for Indigenous Australians

In cases where no Will has been made, the relevant Australian Intestacy Laws have not been drafted with any consideration of what is culturally appropriate for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Therefore, the law can operate to create disharmony and disputes.

When a Will has is drafted for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander it needs to be culturally appropriate.

Making a culturally appropriate Will can help to:

➲ Prevent burial disputes;

➲ Ensure the distribution of the estate is is accordance with the wishes of the deceased;

➲ Make sure young children are provided and looked after by a person approved of by the deceased;

➲ Protect customary law matters and help keep them secret; and

➲ Place limits on the use of the deceased's name, photograph or image after their death.

Digital Legacy Plan extremely helpful for Indigenous Australians

A Digital Legacy Plan comprised of Digital Asset Directions (used in combination with our Digital Safe Custody Vault) can be extremely helpful to the Executor of the Will of an Indigenous Australian in both protecting + keeping secret customary law matters, and placing limits on the use of the deceased's name, photograph or image after their death.

Cover Page: Aboriginal Wills Handbook

Source: Aboriginal Wills Handbook: A practical guide to making culturally appropriate Wills for Aboriginal People” by Prue Vines, 2nd edition [2015].

Note: The author of the Aboriginal Wills Handbook has waived copyright and any part of the handbook may be reproduced provided acknowledgement is made of this source.

Credits:

This FAQ was written by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What is the difference between per stirpes v. per capita estate distribution?

Per Stirpes = by branch = by the bloodline

Per stirpes means “by branch” in Latin, but is commonly understood to mean “by the bloodline.”

If your estate is distributed per stirpes after your death, each branch of your family will receive an equal share of your estate.

Per Stirpes ➲ Example

Imagine that Amy has three children: Brigid, Charles, and David.

At Amy’s death, all three children will receive one third of Amy’s estate ➲ if her estate was set up to pass per stirpes.

Assume that Brigid predeceased Amy, and that Brigid has two children, Eleanor and Fergus.

Now at Amy’s death, Charles and David will still receive one third of the Amy’s estate.

Eleanor and Fergus will each share in what would have been Brigid’s share, so both Eleanor and Fergus will take one sixth of Amy’s estate.

per stipes graphic
Source of example: Trust Company Oklahoma

Per Stirpes v. Per Capita

These legacy latin legal terms, whilst initially confusing, are very important and can change your childrens' (+ their heirs') inheritance.

The alternative to "per stirpes" is "per capita".

With "per capita" the share of any child beneficiary who dies before you is shared equally among your surviving children ... which means your predeceased child (and consequently, their heirs) would lose their share.

With "per stirpes", in the same scenario, instead of your predeceased child losing their share, it is preserved for their children (if any).

Additional Note:

If the term "per capita by representation" is used (also known as modern per stirpes, American per stirpes), please note that this changes the result of the “per capita" distribution so that it operates the same way as the traditional "per stirpes" distribution described above.

The use of this legal term invokes the concept of a “right of representation”.

This means the heirs of any child beneficiary who predeceases you have the right to representation so they can collect the property originally-intended to go to any predeceasing child beneficiary, so they don't lose their share.

Credits:

This FAQ was written by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

When do I need to formally revoke the appointment of my Power of Attorney?

Whether or not you need to formally (in writing) revoke the Power of Attorney will depend upon your individual circumstances, as well as those of your appointed Attorney/s.

Attorney not acting in your best interest

If your Attorney does not follow your directions or does not act in your best interest, you should revoke the Power of Attorney.

Note: Making a new Power of Attorney does not automatically revoke earlier Powers of Attorney.

Each earlier Power of Attorney must be specifically revoked.

Legal Mental Capacity

The most important consideration is whether or not you think you may lose your legal mental capacity in the near future.

If this is the case, it is important you have executed your Will, and appointed Attorneys under Enduring Power of Attorney/s +/or Enduring GuardiansAdvance Health Directives you are confident will look after your best interests into the future.

If you have not considered and implemented your estate plan or are not confident you have appointed the right Executor/s, Attorney/s then now is time you need to make any required changes.

In order to revoke an Enduring Power of Attorney, the Principal (you) must still have legal mental capacity.  

For free resources aimed at providing assistance to lawyers and the public regarding how to assess legal mental capacity, please refer the following guides

➲ The Queensland Handbook for Legal Practitioners (i.e., Lawyers) on Capacity; or

➲ The NSW Justice Capacity Toolkit.

Important Note: All of the above applies regardless of whether or not you have concerns.

Legal mental capacity can be lost at anytime due to unforeseen circumstances.

We highly recommend that the above matters be considered as part of a regular review of your estate planning requirements.

If you lose legal mental capacity for any reason, and don't regain it, it will be too late to ensure your intent and instructions are followed.

Credits:

This FAQ was written by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

When does an Enduring Power of Attorney or Advance Health Directive automatically end in Queensland?

An Enduring Power of Attorney / Advance Health Directive will automatically end in Queensland if …

The Principal (that is you):

✅ Marry ➲ Unless the Enduring Document states otherwise, it is revoked if the Principal marries. However, if the Principal's spouse is already an Attorney, the EPOA is only revoked to the extent that it gives power to someone other than the spouse;

✅ Get Divorced ➲ If the Principal divorces, the Enduring Document is revoked to the extent that it gives power to the former spouse;

✅ Enter into a Civil Partnership ➲ Unless the Enduring Document states otherwise, it is revoked if the Principal enters into a civil partnership. However, if the civil partner is already an Attorney, the Enduring Power of Attorney is only revoked to the extent that it gives power to someone other than the civil partner;

✅ Terminate a Civil Partnership ➲ If the Principal terminates a civil partnership, the Enduring Document is revoked to the extent that it gives power to the former civil partner; or

✅ Make an Inconsistent Document ➲ The Enduring Document is revoked to the extent of any inconsistency with any later documents completed by the Principal, such as another Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Attorney presumably replacing the former EPOA or AHD;

✅ Specified Period or Purpose ➲ The Enduring Document may specify a term or date when it will end; or that it has been created for specific purpose and will end upon the completion of that purpose; or

✅ Pass away ➲ If you pass way, the Enduring Document is automatically revoked in its entirety.

An Enduring Power of Attorney / Advance Health Directive will also automatically end in Queensland if any Attorney

❌ Withdraws ➲ The Attorney may withdraw by giving signed notice or by getting the court’s leave to withdraw;

❌ Becomes a paid carer or health-care provider to the Principal ➲ If the Attorney becomes a paid carer or health-care provider, the Enduring Document is revoked to the extent that it gives that Attorney power for a personal matter;

❌ Becomes incapable ➲ An Attorney’s power is revoked if he or she is no longer capable to make a decision about a matter;

❌ Becomes bankrupt or insolvent ➲ If an Attorney becomes bankrupt or insolvent, the Enduring Power of Attorney is revoked to the extent that it gives that Attorney power for financial matters; or

❌ Passes away.

Relevant Legislation:

ss. 50-59 Powers of Attorney Act (1998) Qld.

Credits:

This FAQ was written by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What are the Witness Restrictions, Requirements and Guidelines for witnessing Enduring Documents in Queensland?

Witness Restrictions

The witness must not be:

❌ The person signing for the Principal (if applicable);

❌ An Attorney of the Principal;

❌ A current paid carer or health-care provider for the Principal; or

❌ A relation of the Principal or of the Principal’s Attorney/s.

Witness Requirements

The Enduring Document must be witnessed by one of the following:

⚖️ Justice of the Peace;

⚖️ Commissioner for Declarations;

⚖️ Lawyer; or

⚖️ Notary Public.

Guidelines for Witnessing Enduring Documents

Witnesses must satisfy themselves that the Principal understands the nature and effect of:

✅ The document they are signing

✅ The delegation of their decision making powers and directions given about future health care.

When taking instructions, witnesses should:

✅ Ask open-ended questions

✅ Take notes, detailing their interview with the Principal

✅ Refer the Principal to a health care professional if you have doubts about their capacity to understand the document.

Do not witness an enduring document if you have concerns that the Principal:

Lacks Capacity to understand what they are signing; or

❌ Is being Unduly Influenced by another person to sign the document.

For more information please refer to these guidelines published by the Office of the Public Guardian.

Credits:

This FAQ was written by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

Why everyone should upgrade to a Smarter Will incl. a Testamentary Trust?

Our Smarter Will provides Maximum Flexibility + Asset Protection + Tax Minimisation

In order to properly consider the reasons why everyone should upgrade to a Smarter Will, we recommend you download + study in detail our Free PDF Explainer Guide

Why Everyone should Upgrade to a Smarter Will?

We offer a range of Smarter Wills to meet your requirements:

⚖️ Smarter Will incl. Testamentary Trust;

⚖️ Smarter Express Will ➲ All to children incl. Testamentary Trust;

⚖️ Smarter Express ➲ Mirror Wills for couples incl. Testamentary Trusts; or

⚖️ Inheritance Deed ➲ Irrevocable Mutual Smarter Mirror Wills for Couples incl. Testamentary Trusts.

The days of the “simple” will are over!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that old-style Wills keep things simple – they can easily lead to complexity and disputes as they aren’t drafted to properly protect beneficiary entitlements and avoid unnecessary taxes.

Our Smarter Will incl. a Testamentary Trust is a cutting-edge document.

Meticulously designed in consultation with leading Australian estate planning experts to provide maximum flexibility and asset protection + tax minimisation.

Here's how it works:

1️⃣ Discretionary testamentary trusts, rights of occupancy and other trust structures that are aimed at giving your executors every possible opportunity to minimise income tax, capital gains tax (CGT) and other tax leakage;

2️⃣ Beneficiary support trusts/special disability trusts that are designed to preserve Centrelink welfare entitlements;

3️⃣ Flexible child guardianship arrangements to ensure as far as possible that your child guardianship wishes are implemented;

4️⃣ Pass control of Family/Discretionary Trusts and SMSF's; and

5️⃣ Flexible mechanics for allocating and distributing your estate assets.

Cleverly designed to minimise the potential for:

➲ Family provision claims; and/or

➲ Disputes among the beneficiaries.

Potential for massive tax savings ➲ example:

Assuming an income of $72K earned from estate assets (eg, rent from an investment property, dividends from shares, etc.) to a surviving spouse who’s total taxable income is $180K, but who has 4 minor children.

If the distribution is paid directly to the spouse under a normal will, [at the time this example was prepared] tax on the distribution was calculated to be $32,400 – HOWEVER, if the distribution is split equally [possible as a result of the Testamentary Trust] between the children, no tax will be payable!

Tax saved in this example: $32,400 … year after year after year.

A lot of care has been taken in drafting your smarter will

Your Smarter Will has been meticulously designed in consultation with leading Australian estate planning experts to allow you to:

1️⃣  Reduce the need to update your Will for minor changes; and

2️⃣  Greatly assist your Executor in administering your Estate.

Your Smarter Will refers to the following separate lists/directions which importantly DO NOT form part of your Wills!

➲ List of Allocation of Personal Chattels;

➲ Digital Assets (incl. current passwords, and authentication protocols); and

➲ Funeral Directions.

This means that you can update any of the above, at any time, by simply dating + personally signing a revised list/direction (no witnesses required).

NSW: circumventing potential civil liabilities

All Testamentary Trust Deeds contain broad definitions of eligible beneficiaries in order to provide as much flexibility as possible for Trust Distributions.

Long-lost siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews or even kids born or who may be residing offshore as part of their professional or lifestyle pursuits could be or become foreign persons + trigger the need for compliance with recent NSW legislation.

Failure to mitigate this risk by ensuring the Trust Deed irrevocably prevents trust distributions to foreign persons creates a situation where:

➲ If the Testamentary Trust acquires or leases NSW Residential Land (freehold or leasehold, vacant or with a dwelling incl. strata) it could potentially be liable to pay the 8% NSW Purchaser Duty + 2% Land Tax Surcharge.

Your smarter will provides a solution

Your Testamentary Trust can be setup to either:

1️⃣  Revocably prevent any trust distributions to any foreign person; This option retains flexibility for the Trusts to reverse its position at some point in the future to allow distributions to foreign persons; or

2️⃣  Irrevocably prevent any trust distributions to any foreign person. This option is highly recommended if your Trusts plan on purchasing or leasing residential property in NSW.

Please contact our legal team if you need clarification or assistance with this complex decision.

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What might be a valid reason to exclude someone from your Will?

Who is an eligible person?

Broadly speaking, an eligible person may include anyone to whom the testator has a responsibility, potentially including a current or former spouse or de facto partner, children, grandchildren, other dependants and persons living in the testator's household.

If you exclude an eligible person there is potential for a Court to make a Family Provision Order

When the testator dies, any "eligible person"may make an application to the court for a family provision order if they believe that there has been inadequate provision for them under the Will.  

If an order is made, interests under the Will may be adjusted and the applicant may be able to obtain part of the estate contrary to the express provision of the Will.

No Guarantee that any reasons given will be accepted by a Court

There is no guarantee that any particular reasons for excluding an eligible person will be acceptable.  

Whilst the likelihood of a successful family provision orders may be reduced by expressly excluding people who may be eligible persons in the Will and providing clear reasons why they have been excluded.

A Court will take into account all of the facts and circumstances.

What are some potentially valid reasons to exclude an eligible person?

The following are some examples of reasons that may potentially be considered valid:

🧩 Sufficient provision was made for the excluded person during the testator's lifetime such that further gifts would be unfair to the included beneficiaries;

🧩 The testator and the excluded person have had no contact for a long time and no relationship of love/affection exists between them;

🧩 The testator has not had any responsibility for the welfare of the excluded person for many years;

🧩 The financial circumstances of the excluded person are much better than those of the included beneficiaries and the excluded person is being excluded in order to try to achieve a balance of financial welfare amongst all potentially interested parties; and/or

🧩 The excluded person has received, or is likely to receive, significant assets from the estate of another person (eg, a former spouse of the testator, a former spouse of the testator's spouse, etc).

Please note: The Will becomes a public document pursuant to the Court Probate process, consequently any reasons articulated for excluding an eligible person will ultimately be made discoverable by the public.

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What is the role of the Executors / Trustees?

What is the role of the Executors/Trustees?

The executors/trustees are responsible for:

✅ Applying for Grant of Probate (a Court Order allowing the Will to be administered);

✅ Notifying the beneficiaries of their entitlements;

✅ Gathering and distributing the assets in accordance with the Will;

✅ Ensuring that the testator's debts, taxes and funeral expenses are paid;

✅ Managing any assets that are held on trust for beneficiaries pursuant to the Will until those trusts vest; and

✅ Preparing the related accounts and tax returns.

Who can be an executor/trustee?

An executor/trustee may be:

⚖️ An individual over 18 years of age;

⚖️ An appropriately licensed trustee company; or

⚖️ The Public Trustee.  

It is not uncommon for a testator to appoint a trusted professional advisor to the role:

⚖️ A Solicitor, Accountant and/or Financial Planner.

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What is the general power of adjustment in a Will?

What is a General Power of Adjustment in a Will?

Our Wills include a general power of adjustment that enables the executor to make adjustments to the allocations and entitlements under the Will.

Adjustments are allowed where the executor reasonably believes that making the adjustments will better reflect your intentions as to the proportionate distribution of both the estate assets and non-estate assets on an after-tax basis.

See our FAQ: What assets generally do not form part of the estate created by my Will? in relation to non-estate assets.   

Please note: A general power of adjustment will not give the executor/trustee the power to add new beneficiaries who aren't already included in the Will.

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What assets generally do not form part of the estate created by my Will?

What are Non-Estate Assets under Australian Law?

The following assets will not generally form part of your estate and are therefore not covered by your Will

That is, assets that are:

❌ Held in superannuation accounts, including any self-managed superannuation fund, unless/until those superannuation assets are transferred into your estate upon your passing pursuant to appropriate superannuation death benefit nominations.

Please refer here for binding superannuation death benefit nominations.

❌ Held in any separate family / discretionary trust;

❌ Owned by a company or held in any unit trust; and/or

❌ Held as “joint tenants” with another person (including bank accounts where you are only able to operate the account jointly with another person);

Assets held as Joint Tenants

Any assets held as joint tenants can only be dealt with as part of the estate if the joint tenancy is first severed into a tenancy-in-common.  

Please note: Our Wills generally do not deal with any assets that are held as joint tenants – however, our Wills give the executor/trustee the power to adjust the proportionate distribution of the estate assets, taking into account both the proportionate distribution of such non-estate assets and the overall tax implications.  

See our FAQ: What is the General Power of Adjustment in a Will?

Foreign Assets

Our Wills are drafted so that they only apply to your assets situated in Australia.  

In relation to any assets held in any overseas jurisdictions, it may be necessary to create a separate Will in the relevant overseas jurisdiction, or if the foreign assets are in a country covered by the relevant treaty, an International Will.

Notional Estates in NSW

In NSW, certain non-estate assets can be considered by a Court in making a Family Provision Order.

For more information please read our FAQ: NSW Family Provision Claims and the concept of the Notional Estate.

Business Succession Planning

If you are a co-owner of any business, consideration should be given to whether your estate will retain or dispose of your share in the business, and vice-versa for the co-owners of the business.

It is highly recommended to put in place a buy/sell agreement to allow for the business to successfully continue operations in the event of the passing or incapacity of a co-owner.  

Under a buy/sell agreement:

🧩 Insurance policies are taken out to cover the death or disablement of each co-owner; and

🧩 If a co-owner dies or becomes incapacitated, he/she is deemed to offer his/her stake for sale to the remaining co-owners and the proceeds of the relevant life insurance policy can be used to fund the purchase of that stake by the remaining co-owners.

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What is your Executor's Legal Status regarding your Digital Assets?

What is your Executor's Legal Status regarding your Digital Assets?

Non-Economic Digital Assets

Unless adequate arrangements are made in advance via Digital Asset Directions / Smarter Digital Legacy Plan, your Executor / Digital Steward may not be able to access your phone, computer, cloud storage or email accounts without the passwords… and knowledge of which two-factor authentication method is used (if applicable).

Even if they have legal permission from an Enduring Power of Attorney +/or your Will!

Economic Digital Assets

Your Executor / Digital Steward may still be able to exert legal access to/control your Digital Assets (in some cases Grant of Probate may be required) assuming they:

1️⃣ Are aware of the existence of your Digital Asset; and

2️⃣ Your Digital Asset has economic value.

Digital Assets that can be converted to fiat currency in the real world have economic value, such as the following:

💰 Online Banking;

💰 Cryptocurrency;

💰 PayPal or Square balances;

💰 Affiliate income;

💰 Website Domain/s;

💰 Trade Secrets;

💰 Influencer (Advertising Revenue Generating) Level Social Media Accounts;

💰 Creative Works - Music, Video, Digital Art, Writings, Photographs, etc.

As part of your Digital Legacy Planning we recommend you also consider whether your Digital Assets:

Generate a revenue stream or have the potential to do so?

❓Are valuable Intellectual Property?

❓Are required for the continuation of your business?

❓Are creative assets, or unreleased or unfinished works?

❓Are items you would like to keep private?

❓Whether your Digital Assets have an associated NFT (a.k.a. Non-Fungible Token)?

To learn more about NFT's we recommend our FAQ: What in the World is an NFT aka Non-Fungible Token and are they really traded on a platform called the OpenSea?

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.

What is an Ethical Will / Legacy Letter?

The Ethical Will: An Ancient Tradition

Ethical Will definition extracted from Wikipedia

An Ethical Will (Hebrew: zava'ah) is a document that passes ethical values from one generation to the next.
Rabbis and Jewish laypeople have continued to write Ethical Wills during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (Riemer)
In recent years, the practice has been more widely used by the general public.
In BusinessWeek magazine and in an American Bar Association electronic newsletter it is described as an aid to Estate Planning; (Murphy; Friedman) in health care and hospice (Baines; Freed) and as a spiritual healing tool. (Weil; Freed).

Modern Perspectives

Ethical Wills (also known as a Legacy Letter) are written by both men and women of every age, ethnicity, faith tradition, economic circumstance & educational level.

Published examples include:

📘 The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours by Marion Wright Edelman,

📘 Everything I Know: Basic Life Rules from a Jewish Mother, and

📘 President Barack Obama's Legacy Letter to his daughters of January 18, 2009.

Basic Concept

The concept of the ancient traditional Ethical Will was to "transmit  love, learning & ethical instructions to future generations".
The Ethical Will is a tool for spiritual healing in religious communities and in the care of seniors, the ailing and the dying.[2]
Estate and financial professionals use the Ethical Will to help clients articulate values to inform charitable and personal financial decisions + preparation of their last will and testament.
The Ethical Will is not a legal document.
Modern heirs may resist being "controlled from the grave" & more readily accept explicitly spiritual blessings from elders.

Bequeathing Smart Strategies

Convey Values, not Valuables

It could be a letter—ranging from half a page to a bound book—or a video recording.

There are no rules governing what goes into an Ethical Will / Legacy Letter, or when the contents should be shared with the heirs, but the idea behind it is simple: Convey values, not valuables.

Deeply rooted in western religions, the practice of writing Ethical Wills has re-emerged as a way of leaving behind something more meaningful than material goods.

The missing piece of Estate Planning

Susan Turnbull, founder and principal of Personal Legacy Advisors, a firm that advocates non-binding personal-legacy documents as a component of estate and philanthropic planning says:

"What struck me was that it was the missing piece of estate planning
A Will is written in formal legalese that is very limited in scope.
It has no personality, and there is no life or warmth in it.
Love and affection and gratitude may be implied by the document, but are never stated.
An Ethical Will takes a 30,000-foot view of your life, and tries to capture the essence of what has been important to you, and the lasting messages you want to leave.
The Ethical Will is written to help other people, for the benefit of the heirs, but the process the author goes through to create it is as valuable as the document itself.
The author has the opportunity to pause and reflect on her/his life in ways she/he might otherwise never do."

What is all this for?

Linda Beerman, Chief Fiduciary & Risk Officer at Atlantic Trust, a private wealth-management firm, and manager of its wealth strategies group, says:

"Ethical Wills are an important part of helping prepare the next generation to become "good stewards" of the family wealth.
Typically these are private expressions of love, of what the owner of the wealth wants it to mean for the next generations.
It's an effort to pass down not just the money, but all of the drivers [of the] creator of the wealth, and what he or she wishes the legacy to be for the family.
The Ethical Will is a great way to tie it all together.
It answers the question: What is this all for?
With nearly every family there is a deeply emotional personal story behind the accumulation of the wealth."

What is typically included?

🧩 Family history + Cultural & Spiritual Values;

🧩 Blessings & Expressions of Love for, Pride in, Hopes & Dreams for Children and Grandchildren;

🧩 Life-Lessons + Wisdom of Life Experience;

🧩 Requests for Forgiveness for Regretted Actions;

🧩 The Rationale for Philanthropic + Personal Financial Decisions;

🧩 Stories about Meaningful Objects for Heirs to Receive;

🧩 Clarification about and Personalisation of Advance Health Directives; and

🧩 Requests for Ways to be Remembered after Death.

Creating your own Ethical Will

Susan Turnbull, offers the following tips:

✅ Start Today

If you were not here tomorrow, what is the most important thing you would not want left unsaid?

It might be a simple as saying, "thank you" in your own words.

Write it down – you've begun.

✅ Relax + Be Yourself

You are not trying to write for the Pulitzer Prize.

What you create is a gift of yourself, made for those you love, not for an imaginary panel passing judgment on your life or your writing.

✅ Ask Yourself the following …

What do I want to make sure my loved ones know and have in writing?

What messages, feelings and information do I want to endure beyond my life?

✅ Treat it as a Work in Progress

Start small and add to it over time if you wish.

It's natural to expect that what seems most important to share might grow and change as you and your audience age.

✅ Be Careful, Be Loving

The reach of your words is unknowable.

✅ Make it easy to update + easy to find

Keep it in an accessible file, so you can add to it effortlessly.

Keep it with your legal papers or refer to where it can be found.

Make sure your words find their intended audience.

Note: Using our Digital Safe Custody Vault will ensure you accomplish these objectives.

✅ Consider sharing it during your lifetime

Even as you know you may augment or change your document over time, think of the rewards of creating a monologue that will promote dialogue.

Credits:

This FAQ was created by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.