It is common for the surviving parent to remarry or enter into a de facto relationship. The new couple then acquires assets jointly over a period of time. If the new spouse or partner also has children from a previous marriage, this can cause tension among children from the respective families – especially when there is inevitable, subsequent death of one of the parents.
It can be very difficult for the surviving spouse to keep everyone happy. The children of the spouse that has died have expectations about their inheritance from their deceased parent. However the children of the surviving spouse also want part of the estate.
Usually, couples own property as joint tenants. Under this arrangement, the ownership of the house passes to the surviving joint tenant upon death without reference to the Will of the deceased. The same principle applies to joint bank accounts. While the surviving spouse effectively “inherits” the jointly-owned assets of the couple, it is entirely up to him or her how those assets are distributed in their own Wills.
There are slightly different laws in New South Wales than in Queensland regarding this issue but it is something which is a challenge to “Brady Bunch” families. The solution is to ensure that couples obtain appropriate estate planning advice from an experienced lawyer in this area so that steps can be taken to ensure that there is an equal distribution of the assets to the respective families of the couple. This can be achieved through a fairly simply process of owning the land as tenants in common in equal shares and creating trusts to protect the assets.
Further information is also available on our Wills and Estates pages.