Blended families – who will inherit?

Blended families can be complicated in life, but even more after death.  If you remarry, or enter into a new de facto relationship, the law will decide how your assets are distributed if you do not have a valid will and make arrangements for your financial affairs before you die. This means that your children from a previous relationship may not receive as much of your estate as you intended.

If you die without a will and there are assets in your estate, the estate will be distributed pursuant to the intestacy rules set out in the Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic).  If the value of your estate is below the threshold amount prescribed in the Act, your new partner will receive the whole estate and your children from a previous relationship will not inherit anything.

If the value of your estate is over a set threshold amount, your children will be entitled to share the estate with your new partner. However, if you enter into a new de facto relationship and have not divorced your previous partner, your ex-spouse and your new partner will be entitled to share the estate between them.  In this situation, your children will only be entitled to a share of your estate if its total value is over a set threshold amount.

It is also important to have a valid will as there are other particular assets which may never form part of your estate, unless expressly dealt with in your will.  For example, if you and your partner own property or other assets jointly, these assets will not form part of your estate if you are survived by your partner. They will automatically be transferred to your partner, who will become an owner by right of ‘survivorship’.

Another example of assets that should be expressly included in your will is superannuation, as it is not automatically included in your estate either. If you do not have a ‘valid binding death nomination’ lodged with your superannuation fund, the superannuation legislation and rules of the relevant fund will apply with respect to distribution of your superannuation death benefits.  A trustee of the relevant fund will make a decision about who will receive your superannuation benefit, according to these rules.

If partners in blended families wish their loved ones to receive their assets, plans for their estate and appropriate documents should be arranged. To make a time to talk through your wishes with an experienced Wills and Estate Lawyer, please contact our office on 03 5472 1588 in Castlemaine or 03 5434 6666 in Bendigo.

Vesna Pocuca is an experienced Wills and Estates Lawyer who works in the Castlemaine office of Robertson Hyetts Solicitors.