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.
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.
Here’s an example of the massive tax savings that can come from having a Testamentary Discretionary Trust …
On 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, tax on the distribution will be $32,400 – HOWEVER, if the distribution is split equally between the children, no tax will be payable!
Tax saved in this example: $32,400 … year after year after year.
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 Will!
➲ 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).
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 Testamentary Trust can be setup to either:
1️⃣ Revocably prevent any trust distributions to any foreign person; This option retains flexibility for the Trust 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 Trust plans on purchasing or leasing residential property in NSW.
Please reach our to our legal team if you need clarification or assistance with this complex decision.
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➲ 🗄 Will hard-copy printing + binding service.
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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.
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.
As an emergency response to COVID-19 some states + territories have temporarily relaxed witnessing requirements for Wills + other key documents.
The relaxations allow remote witnessing using an audio-video link (AVL) over the internet. We strongly recommend they only be used as a last resort with the involvement of your lawyer. Practical COVID-Safe alternatives such as "Will through a window!" are preferred.
See our recent blog article "COVID-19 Safe Solutions for Witnessing Wills + Other Key Documents in Australia" for more information.
🔒 A.C.T Supreme Court
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🔒 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].
🔒 N.T. Public Trustee
[“You can store your Will for free at the Public Trustee office in a specially maintained vault.”];
🔒 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];
🔒 W.A. Will Bank
[Free service operated by the WA Public Trustee];
🔒 For Queensland, S.A. + Tasmania
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.
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.
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).
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.
What do you need to understand in terms of your Will?
❌ You cannot name your Pet/s as direct beneficiaries in your Will.
❌ For clarity, you cannot include statements in you Will such as “I give $X to my cat Toby".
❌ Legally a pet is regarded as your property. That is, as one of your possessions.
❌ Pet/s are not legally recognised as a ‘person’ under the law.
❌ This means they cannot own property, hold a bank account, sue or be sued, or in this case, receive a gift as a beneficiary directly under a Will.
The approach to take will depend on your personal circumstances, what you prefer for your pet/s, and their needs.
Some simple + valid options to consider for the long-term care of your Pet/s under your Will are as follows.
✅ You can make a gift of you Pet/s to a trusted family member, after you have discussed it with them and they have agreed to take on the responsibility.
✅ Provide for an alternative, Plan B, trusted friend or family member, just in case.
✅ In addition, it would be wise to give a sum of money (legacy) in your Will to the actual recipient of your Pet/s to cover your conservative estimate of your Pet/s lifetime reasonable living, maintenance and anticipated healthcare costs based on your experience.
✅ Alternatively you could gift your Pet/s to a registered pet charity, rescue charity or pet shelter such as the RSPCA to be re-homed or adopted by another pet-lover.
✅ Ensure you get the name of the charity or shelter 100% correct, and provide for an alternative as a backup just in case.
✅ If you have more than one Pet, consider whether you want them kept together.
✅ Clearly communicate everything to your Executor/s so they can work quickly to ensure your Pet/s are kept as safe and comfortable as possible at a time which will be difficult for them as well as for all concerned.
✅ Alternatively, you can establish a Testamentary Pet Trust for the care and maintenance of your Pet/s during their lifetime.
✅ Under such arrangements the trustee holds the money for the benefit of the named Pet/s.
✅ When the Pet/s die, the trust is wound up and distributed according to the directions made in the Will, which might be to an animal charity or elsewhere.
✅ While this approach provides increased certainty that your allocated funds will be devoted to the long-term care of your Pet/s, it is also more costly to administer.
✅ Choice of trustee is important.
✅ Someone trusted to carry out the terms of your trust, preferably independent and experienced, needs to be appointed in the Will as trustee for this purpose.
Certain species of animals like turtles, koi fish + birds (e.g., parrots) can live up to 100 years or more.
❌ In most state and territories of Australia (except South Australia) the life of a Trust is a maximum 80 years;
✅ if your Pet/s could outlive the useful life of the Testamentary Pet Trust, it becomes crucial that you seek legal advice in order to create a specific plan for what is to occur if your Pet/s outlive the Trust established for its long-term care.
❌ Any gift well in excess of your Pet/s actual needs, opens the door to the possibility that your Will might be challenged by eligible beneficiaries.
➲ No Pets were involved.
➲ The Will disinherited eligible beneficiaries, instead giving everything to the RSPCA.
Mr. Simpson left his entire estate via his Will to his second wife, and in the alternative should she pre-decease him, to the RSPCA.
Nothing was left to his three children from his first marriage.
As it transpired, his second wife pre-deceased him, so everything went to the RSPCA.
The estate after sales of all estate property amounted to a total of $397,453.58 in cash.
The three children from Mr. Simpson's first marriage successfully contested the Will under family provision legislation and were awarded 40% of the estate after legal costs.
❌ Leaving everything to an animal charity (or any other charity) is not wise where there are children, family and others who may be eligible to make a family provision claim on your estate.
❌ The wasted legal costs paid out of the estates in this case were circa $50,000.
Your pets are your property so if you make a Will and don’t make any specific arrangements for them, they will form part of your residuary estate.
Whoever you have designated to inherit the residue of your estate will then be entitled to take ownership of your Pet/s.
If you have not spoken to your residuary beneficiaries, it may be unclear which beneficiary is to take care of which Pet/s.
❌ It is not difficult to foresee the potential for further disputes arising!
Hard copies can be found in the NSW State + Local Libraries or you can view/download the online guide via the Resource Link provided at the following State Library of NSW webpage: Companion Animal Law Guide New South Wales.
. Marshall & Ors v Redford  NSWSC 763
For a more detailed discussion please refer to our blog article “Your Pets are Family: Providing Emergency + Long-Term Care for your Furry, Fluffy or Fine-Feathered Friends!" by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.