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Family Money- Can I Protect It?

Bank of Mum and Dad

In today’s economy, it is has become increasingly common for parents to financially help their children, especially when it comes to buying their first home.

Parents may loan the money, gift the money, or act as guarantor. While most parents want to help their children as much as possible, this can raise a variety of issues.

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Protecting your present while securing your future

Canadian entrepreneur Gerald Cotton died in December 2018. With him died the ability to access $145 million worth of bitcoin. Cotton’s widow, Jennifer Robertson, says in her affidavit "I do not know the password or recovery key. Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere”. While $145 million may be slightly more than the average asset misplaced when administering an estate, it is not uncommon for executors to struggle to find information regarding a deceased’s assets. Especially for those who take security seriously.
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When a loved one dies...

When a loved one dies, there are a thousand questions running through everyone’s mind.

Did they have a Will? What funeral arrangements should be made? Who should we notify?

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Choosing the Right Executor?

There is no single right or wrong, one-size-fits-all recommendation for everyone, but there are some useful questions you can ask yourself when thinking about who would be the right Executor for your Estate. Some of these questions are:

  1. Whom do I trust?
  2. Who would be equipped to make sensible, rational and fair decisions after my death?
  3. Who would be willing and able to take on the job, and could stand up to any pressure from my beneficiaries?
  4. Where does this person live, and how difficult would it be for them to act in the role?
  5. How old is this person, and are they likely to survive me or to be fit enough to do whatever is required?
  6. Has this person ever been bankrupt, or do they have a criminal background?
  7. Does this person have a parent or spouse (or anyone else in their life) who could influence them to make decisions in a certain way in the course of administering my Estate?
  8. How “messy” or complicated is the administration of my Estate likely to be?
  9. Should I appoint more than one person? If I do this, what do I want to happen if these people don’t get along, or can’t agree on something?
  10. Should I nominate a professional person or trustee company, knowing that this might come at a cost to my Estate, and might be disempowering for the loved ones I leave behind?
  11. Should I nominate a substitute Executor in the event that my first choice is unable or unwilling to act as my Executor?

If you anticipate that there is the potential for a claim against your Estate by a disgruntled beneficiary, you might not want to nominate that particular person (or any other beneficiary named in your Will) as your Executor. For example, if you want to leave your entire Estate to charity, rather than to your children, you might think twice about appointing your child as your Executor.

Every person (and every Estate) is different, so of course this cannot be an exhaustive list of things to think about when choosing your Executor. We encourage you to turn your mind to what is important to you, and what you wish for your loved ones after you’re gone.

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Life after Death?

But it was established to the satisfaction of the Court that the 2009 Will had been signed at a time when the testator had already lost testamentary capacity due to certain delusional beliefs which she held. Accordingly, the Court decided the 2009 Will had no effect. That meant that the revocation of the 2006 Will was also ineffective. So the 2006 Will was rescued from its dusty grave, and was duly admitted to Probate. The case also demonstrates that in deciding which Will is valid, the Court makes up its own mind based on the evidence before it and does not simply follow any agreement reached by the parties.

In Williams v Schwarzback the question of which Will was valid was initially hotly contested; at a mediation the parties agreed that the 2006 was the valid Will. But the Court only decided in favour of the 2006 Will when it was satisfied that the 2009 Will was invalid. It did not simply rubber stamp the agreement of the parties, who had to put the necessary evidence of the testator’s delusions before the Court. This is an illustration of the rule that in contested Probate disputes one cannot simply get judgment by consent, even if the parties ultimately settle their differences.

Finally, it is good practice for testators, when they sign a Will, to write ‘revoked by Will dated….’ across the earlier Will; this practice helps to minimise confusion as to the status of the earlier Will. If the later Will is found to be invalid, the revocation is also invalid and the earlier Will is available to be admitted to Probate. The earlier Will may also be relevant if Family Provision proceedings are brought, even if the later Will is valid. So, as you can appreciate, at least in Probate matters, there can be life after death.

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2742 Hits

Can you trust your Trust? Is your Trust a SHAM?

Can you trust your Trust? Is your Trust a SHAM?

Riddle me this:

  • Has your Trust been created to evade legal obligations?
  • Is there a disparity between actual transactions and your Trust Deed?
  • Are you trying to mislead others in respect of your rights and obligations under the Trust Deed?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then I am pointing my finger at you, and telling you that your Trust looks like a sham; and your ex could soon be having a bite of that tasty looking cherry of a Trust in the Family Court!

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