You work hard building up the family property.You make sacrifices to educate your children, some stay to help you on the property and others move away to greener pastures, to the city or overseas.
Some children don't go just because they want to but often because the family farm can't support everyone.
How do you decide what is fair when you come to deciding what is to happen to your assets when you die.What is even harder is how do you make your children feel comfortable with what you decide.
In recent times, we are seeing quite an upsurge in the number of claims being made and investigated by children feeling they are being disadvantaged in their parents wills.Whilst Mum and Dad feel they are being quite reasonable in their decisions, often the children don't see it the same way.
The problem with not getting it right is not only the potential to rip apart a family and put a strain on the relationships but also the potential legal fees which can be involved in any court proceedings as the family slugs it out.
Whilst the financial costs can be substantial, the emotional cost and damage is often much greater.
As property values increase, we see more and more families with holdings valued in the millions or tens of millions and for disgruntled children this is making it worth having a go in the Courts.
The issues for parents are enormous. How do you reward the child who has helped you through thick and thin for little financial gain but with the expectation that one day they will inherit the farm. On the other hand, parents want to help out the other children but all the assets are in the farm.
Recently, I saw a client who was quite distraught. His parents had led him to believe that one day the property would be his. He was in his 50's. He had worked for Dad all his life and had rarely seen a wage let alone any fruits of his labours. He had a wife and children himself.
The bombshell hit when Dad decided not to pass the property to his son in his will but to split it up whilst he was still alive.That would save any arguments when Dad died.
And it did, because now the family are having the fight whilst Dad is still alive.
That story is symbolic of many we get to hear about, often the names change or some of the facts but the point is the same.
One other client decided to look after his boys.They had been good to him. Dad thought it best to leave the properties to them so they could make a living off the land.They had worked hard and deserved it. The girls had married well and were fairly comfortable in their lives so they only received a token benefit under the will.
The problem was that when Dad died, the boys thought their Christmases had all come at once.They decided they had had enough of droughts, sold off the properties, took their millions and headed off to the coast to put their feet up.The girls saw red but not a cent of the proceeds.
How do you avoid this? Good planning is not just about wills, it is building relationships with your children, understanding how they feel and what they want. By starting the process early there are more options.
Insurances can be bought less expensively when you are young and fit to allow you to leave the farm intact and have money available on your death for the other children.
Agreements can be put in place to ensure properties pass how you want them to and to keep the children happy. By getting good advice from your lawyer, working with your accountant and possibly your financial planner most of these problems can be solved.
Many people only consider their options, literally, at the death. By then it is often too late.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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