STORIES FROM MY CLIENT FILES

I never lose sight of the privilege it is to advise good people who want only to protect their life’s work and worth.

Here are some of their stories *names and identifying details changed — perhaps you will recognise your own situation?

The story of the second spouse

THE CHALLENGE

The will-maker was separated from his second wife at the time of his passing. They were not divorced and the property settlement had not been commenced. He did not review his will after he separated and as a result, his second wife claimed 100% of his superannuation to the exclusion of the adult children of the first marriage (my clients).

THE OUTCOME

Despite this, I was able to bring the second wife to the negotiating table and resolved the situation with an agreement that allocated 40% of the superannuation to the children.

My insight: most people will take the opportunity to do the right thing, when treated with respect and courtesy.

The story of the big blended family

THE CHALLENGE

This family was formed by the marriage of two people, each with adult children from previous marriages. But even more complexity was added when one of them married for the third time after the death of their second spouse.

I acted for the surviving spouse of the third marriage, which took place whilst my client’s spouse was a resident of a nursing home. Although the parties had lived in a de facto arrangement for many years, questions were raised about the capacity to marry.

To make things more difficult, the estate comprised many family heirlooms which had deep emotional significance for both sets of children. My client had no connection to these items but was entitled to them as part of her share of the estate.

THE OUTCOME

I was able to resolve the matter for my client by negotiating a settlement which removed any question about the validity of the marriage. As part of the settlement, key items of property were returned to the children of the earlier marriages. Although not part of the settlement, I then worked with my client to update her Will.

My insight: a will is revoked upon marriage. If your will isn’t updated and you pass away, you are now intestate. This means any wishes you had for your property have no enforceable legal standing.

The story of the off-farm children

THE CHALLENGE

The husband and wife held their rural property as joint tenants but had very different provisions in their wills. On the death of the wife, the husband’s will divided the property between three of the five children, because those three were working in the farm business. On the death of the husband, the wife’s will divided the property between all five children.

This meant the outcome would be vastly different, depending on who died first. This created uncertainty and tension for both the on-farm and off-farm children.

THE OUTCOME

I assisted this family to establish an agreement for the succession of both the farm business and other assets, working with the other professional advisors appointed by the family members. This provided a fair outcome for the off-farm children, whilst ensuring the viability of the enterprise well into the future. Having certainty restored family harmony and avoided a predictable dispute.

My insight: achieving a “fair” outcome is rarely a simple matter. The worst thing you can do is shirk the uncomfortable discussions and leave others to sort out your mess.