Can Children be Executors under a will?

Children are considered legally ‘disabled’ until they reach 18. They can be appointed as executors under a will, but if the testator dies while the child is under 18 the child cannot act as executor.

So what happens?

Usually their legal guardian will be executor in their place, or the courts can appoint someone else.

Under NSW law this would be s 70 of the Probate and Administration Act 1898

http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/paaa1898259/s70.html

Example

Bart has divorced the mother of his sole child – Junior.

Bart makes a will while Junior is 11 and appoints Junior as the executor of his estate with no backup. Bart has no plans on dying but carks it in a skateboard accident when Junior is 16.

Junior’s guardian at this point is her mother. The mother applies for probate as guardian of the executor and this is granted by the courts.

Bart roles over in his grave when his ex-wife, whom he still hates, takes control of his estate.

Strategy: Take a Wage Haircut and Move to a cheaper area

If you moved to a cheaper area to live and took a haircut on your wage, it might not be as bad as you think. This is can speed up financial independence and reduce stress and give you a better quality life.

Example of a $20,000 wage reduction

After tax income on $100,000 would be $73,883 (2018-19 tax year)

After tax income on $80,000 would be $61,383

So, a $20,000 reduction in gross income means only a $12,500 reduction in real terms

Try working it out yourself at https://www.taxcalc.com.au/

But the real benefit may be the savings with home ownership.

An equivalent house costing say $1mil in Sydney v $600,000 in Adelaide (for example)

Repayments on $1mil at 4% pa are          

  • $4,774 per month for 30 years with Total interest payable $718,695

Repayments on $600k at 4% pa are         

  • $2,864 per month for 30 years with Total interest payable $431,217

The repayments on the smaller loan mean a cash flow saving of $22,920 per year – which more than makes up for the lower wage income.

Furthermore, if you consider commuting times – you might be saving 1 or 2 hours per day living outside of Sydney.

Living costs may also be generally cheaper. Consumer prices are supposedly about 12.75% higher in Sydney than Adelaide:

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=Australia&city1=Adelaide&city2=Sydney
https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=Australia&city1=Adelaide&city2=Sydney

Consider also the quality of life.

Conclusion

It can be worth moving out of Sydney and living elsewhere and this can be the case even if you were to take a substantial haircut on your income.

Setting Up a Trust When You Have No Family

What is the point, you might ask, in setting up a discretionary trust to hold investment assets when you have no family?

A discretionary trust needs at least one beneficiary with the trustee having the option to retain income, or at least 2 beneficiaries where it doesn’t. However, most discretionary trusts will have hundreds of potential beneficiaries as they will be set up with one or two named persons as the primary beneficiary and then there will be secondary and, possibly, tertiary beneficiaries who are relations of the primary beneficiary.

So even though you are on your own now, you might have cousins or distant relatives who could be beneficiaries – this doesn’t mean they need to be recipients of trust income, but just that they could be. You never know when one of your cousins might invest in shares and lose the money and have carried forward income or capital losses.

There is also the issue that even though you may not have any family now, you may get a spouse at a future date. There may even be children and then grandchildren. All these people could and probably would be beneficiaries of the trust. This is generally the case even if they do not ‘exist’ at the time the trust was created.

Perhaps most importantly, a company could also be a beneficiary of the trust. This may allow for use of the bucket company strategy of diverting income to the company to cap the tax rate at 30%. Later on, the retained earnings in the company could be distributed to future family members (providing the shares of the bucket company are held by a different trust).

There are also the asset protection aspects to consider. Not having a spouse may mean holding all assets yourself and taking a risk of not ending up bankrupt. Where the assets are held on trust, the assets are generally much safer from attack should the controller of the trust become bankrupt at some point.

See the discussion at: https://www.propertychat.com.au/community/threads/legal-tip-190-setting-up-a-trust-when-you-have-no-family.36832/

Don’t listen to the Armchair experts on Family Law

On various internet forums where family law issues are discussed, it is interesting to see how the non-law trained persons become the instant experts in Family Law. They will know more than lawyers instantly, often citing the experience of friends or friend’s friends or media reports.

The non-expert opinions that I have heard recently are:

  • Binding Financial Agreements (BFA) are a waste of time and money because the courts just overturn them. This is not true.
  • Women get more than men in property settlements – “they come with a handbag and leave with a property” is one quote that I have heard. There is no legal basis for this.
  • The courts favour women over men.
  • A short relationship can see you (if you’re a man) lose 50% of your assets.
  • You can just transfer your property to your sister to avoid your spouse ‘taking’ it.
  • Trusts provide asset protection on divorce or relationship breakdowns.
  • You should charge your girlfriend $1 per week rent so that she cannot make a claim on your property (seen a guy who actually issued receipts to his girlfriend – not sure if she actually paid him).
  • You can only sign BFA before getting married. You can actually enter into a BFA before, during or after a relationship.
  • You are not de-facto if you maintain a separate residence – knew a guy who lived with a girl but kept his own house unrented. He told me this was to prove he lived separately from her.
  • There is a do it yourself BFA option – I have heard of persons who have written out their own agreements. These are probably worded poorly, but they will also not comply with the Family Law Act if they are not explained by a lawyer.

It seems to me that the area of family law brings out more armchair experts than any other area of law and I am not sure what, but it could be because it is an emotional area of law.

My suggestion is if you want to know about family law issues disregard absolutely everything anyone says unless they are a practicing lawyer with a family law focus.

Moving out of the Main Residence – When can you claim Interest on loans?

There are 2 major issues when taxpayers want to claim the interest on a loan relating to a former main residence:

  1. Redrawn amounts
  2. Timing

Redrawn amounts and Mixed Loans

Interest is only deductible if the loan it is incurred on was used to purchase the property, or for improvements etc. Where any amounts have ever been redrawn from a loan the interest would need to be apportioned.

Example 1

Tyrell borrowed $500,000 to buy a main residence. Along the way she paid it down to $450,000 and then redrew $50,000 to buy a yacht (which is actually a small boat, but sounds better if he calls it a yatch).

This loan no longer relates solely to the property but is a mixed purpose loan so only 450/500 or 90% of any interest on the loan could be deductible once the property is available for rent.

Example 2

David used a LOC for his loan to purchase his main residence and borrowed $500,000 initially. Every week he deposited his salary and then redrew amounts to live on. The amount of the loan relating to the property will decrease each week and at the end of 5 years the loan would be extremely mixed.

He would have to spend hours to work out the portion of the loan relating to the property and might find that this might only be 10% of the loan amount.

(this is why you should never use a LOC as the main loan, but only to ‘access’ equity)

Timing

The other issue is timing. A person cannot start claiming interest until the property is available for rent. This is generally only after you have moved out and have advertised the property for rent at market rates. While you are living in the property and advertising it the property wouldn’t be available for rent, so you could not claim interest during this period.

There are also timing issues on when interest is incurred and debited to an account because interest is generally incurred daily but added monthly to the loan.

Example 3Let’s say someone moves out on the 30th and immediately advertises the property for rent and on 1st of the following month they are charged $1,000 in interest. Can they claim that interest? No, well not in full because interest is charged in arrears and added to the account monthly. So, 29 days of that interest related to the period you would living in the property. So, in the first month only 1/30th of that $1,000 should be claimed.

The 2 broad methods of Debt Recycling

Broadly speaking there 2 ways to ‘debt recycle’.

Debt recycling is the conversion of ‘bad debt’ into ‘good debt’. See http://www.structuring.com.au/terry/recycling-debt/what-is-debt-recycling/

  1. Use the income from investments to pay down non-deductible debt, then borrow to invest further, or
  2. Selling investment assets and using the funds released to pay down the non-deductible debt and reborrowing

The best approach might be a combination of the 2 methods.

Example

Bart has owned a few investment properties for a few years. They are positive geared by $100 per week so that is about $5,200 per year in extra funds he can use to pay off his non-deductible home loan.

But the properties have about $500,000 in equity in them.

Bart only owes $400,000 on the main residence so what he could do is to sell the properties, pay the tax and used what is left to pay off the main residence debt, and to reborrow to buy more properties.

This way he uses a combination of the 2 debt recycling methods.

Of course, there is a lot else for Bart to consider such as, most importantly, his ability to qualify for finance to buy more properties.

Tax Strategy: Use Capital Losses Quickly – Recycle debt + death

Some people have carried forward capital losses. These losses can usually be carried forward until the taxpayer has a capital gain which can ‘soak up’ the capital loss.

I think it is a good idea to use up these losses as soon as possible.

The main reason being that losses are ‘lost’ at death. If the taxpayer dies their loss cannot be passed on to any other person who could utilise it. Don’t lose a loss!

Example

Bart bought a property in a mining town for $1,200,000. He ended up selling it for $700,000 and has a carried forward capital loss of $500,000.

Bart dies and leaves a rental property that he owns to his sister Lisa. The property has a $500,000 capital gain.

Unfortunately, Bart’s loss will not benefit anyone. Lisa will inherit the investment property pregnant with a $500,000 gain, yet she cannot benefit from the loss.

Had Bart sold the investment property before his death he might have made $500,000 tax free and this money could have been passed onto Lisa. He might have even sold the property to Lisa – perhaps with vendor finance if she couldn’t have afforded a loan. Also, if Bart had a flexible will his estate could have sold the property and possibly used up the gain.

Another reason to use up capital losses is their benefits with debt recycling. Making capital gains without needing to pay tax will mean there is more money with which the non-deductible debt can be reduced.


Example of Debt Recycling

Lisa has a $100,000 capital loss from some bad share investments many years ago. Because of this she has a large amount of debt still outstanding on her main residence. But this has not stopped her investing in shares again. She has learnt from her mistakes and is now making some good capital gains.

If Lisa’s shares increased in value by, say $20,000 in the first year, she could sell these shares, pay no tax, and use the proceeds to pay down the non-deductible debt, and then invest in more shares and repeat.

Doing this has 2 advantages

  1. It uses up the loss, and
  2. It produces tax free capital gains which can then be used to pay off the non-deductible debt quicker.

Speak to your tax lawyer or tax agent.

How to Fund a New Discretionary Trust

Discretionary trusts are generally started with just $10 or $20. Mostly trusts are established for a trustee to hold shares or property for the benefit of a beneficiary, so how does the trustee get the deposit or money to do this?

There are basically just 3 options to consider:

  1. Gift

A gift is an irreversible transfer from one person to another.

It is better than a loan for asset protection against bankruptcy because if the gift giver goes bankrupt generally the gift will not be available to creditors (but the claw back laws need to be considered).

Gifts to discretionary trusts may not be ideal though because when you die the gift will not form part of your assets and cannot be passed via your will.

If the gift giver is borrowing money to gift to a trust the interest will not be deductible.

Gifts should be documented with a deed.

2. Loans with interest

A loan can be made with interest accruing. However, interest is income to the receiver. Interest may be deductible to the trust if it is using the borrowed money invest, s 8-1 ITAA97.

The interest rate could at market, under market rates or higher than market rates. Each has different consequences.

But a person cannot contract with themselves, so you could not lend to yourself if you are the trustee.

Generally, someone borrowing money to lend to the trustee should consider charging interest to the trust. This interest would need to be at least the same interest that the bank is charging you. But the question you should be asking is if the bank has a first mortgage security over real property and charges say 4% to you, if you lend to the trust at 4% without security would this be a market interest rate? Are there any Part IVA consequences?

A loan should be documented with a written loan agreement which would be either a contract or a deed.

3. Interest free loans

Many like to make interest free loans to trusts because there are no direct tax consequences and the loaned money would generally come back to the lender at death and therefore form part of their estate and can then pass into a testamentary discretionary trust.

But a major issue with loans is the various state limitations acts. This could cause a loan to become unenforceable if there has been no activity with a loan for 6 years (NSW law). So, a loan made say 7 years ago which is interest free and no transactions have happened will not be recoverable if the borrower refuses to pay back. You might think that you are not going to sue a related trust, but you must remember that if you set up a trust you are just in control temporarily. If you lose capacity, go bankrupt or die the control of the trust will pass to someone else.

Interest fee loans should be documented in the same way as loans with interest.

Which method should you use?

You should all get specific legal advice from a lawyer, but as a guide:

  1. If you have cash and are concerned about bankruptcy a gift might be worth considering
  2. If you are not concerned about bankruptcy and have cash, then an interest free loan may be worth considering
  3. If you are borrowing and on-lending the money to the trust a loan with interest may be worth considering.

If you do make a loan you must adhere to the terms of the loan for it to be effective.

Being Both Executor of a Deceased Estate and Applying for Super Death Benefits

The executor of an estate has fiduciary duties to maximise the estate of the decreased. There can be conflicts of interest where someone is both executor and they apply, in their personal capacity, for the superannuation death benefits of the deceased, and this is because they are trying to avoid having the super death benefits paid into the estate, to benefit themselves.

Example

Mum and Dad divorce many years ago, son dies without a will. Son has about $40k in assets plus about $400,000 in super death benefits. Under the intestacy laws where a person dies without a spouse and children then both parents will benefit equally from the estate.

The issue here is that $40k is in the estate and will go to each parent in the share of $20k each.

If the superfund pays the death benefits to the estate the parents will get another $200,000 each.

If the superfund pays the mum, dad will miss out on $200k and similar if the superfund pays dad.

But, by mum applying for the benefit herself she is depriving the estate the money which means she is potentially breaching her duties as executor. As executor she should be asking the superfund to pay the money into the estate – it is her legal duty to do so.

 Moral of the story – seek legal advice before accepting the position of executor, especially if the deceased