“Issue” is a technical legal term used in succession and inheritance law and some discretionary trusts. “Issue” is not defined in wills and succession legislation even though it occurs in some legislative provisions. Its legal meaning has been developed under the general (common) law going back to at least 16th century English cases.
The High Court has said that ‘issue’ is a word with a clear prima facie legal meaning. It means descendants or progeny, and is not limited to children.1,2Prima facie means at first instance.
Under the general law the “issue” of a person means all of their lineal descendants by blood of every degree, including their children. That is, your “issue” includes not just your children but all of your lineal descendants of all degrees – your children, grandchildren, great-children and so down the line without limit. See infographics. This is the primary legal meaning of issue.
Adopted children – while the primary meaning of issue is about blood relations, legally adopted children can be described as “issue” in certain circumstances and by the operation of the adoption statutes.
Time limits under succession law on family provision limit when you can contest a will. Most states and territories family provision legislation provide for some time limit, often the period is six months but it can vary.
But what if the time period has passed? Most legislation provides the Court with a discretion to extend the time within which to make an application, but it is not automatic and the Court’s permission to file must be sought first. Legal assistance is essential.
The right of survivorship means that when the first owner dies, their interest in the property is automatically absorbed so that the surviving owner now owns the whole property, see graphic. This is due to the operation of law and is independent of a will.
When the survivor dies, the property then passes according to their will, or if no will left, according to the intestacy rules. For people co-owning property as joint tenants, it is therefore important to review their situations and wills on a regular basis to ensure outcomes on death are what is wanted.
Intestacy is when you die without leaving a will. You are said to have died “intestate”. In the absence of instructions left in a valid will, who will inherit your property? Succession law contains strict rules to deal with this problem.
This is an outline of the application of the intestacy rules. They specify the order of entitlement as to who inherits and in what proportion, as well as the provision of a sum of money (statutory legacy) for the spouse or partner. More →
Pets and companion animals are important parts of our lives and family. Legally a pet is regarded as property, not a ‘person’ (although we might think of them that way!), belonging to their owner. Being property means that a pet cannot hold title to property and so cannot take a direct gift of money as a beneficiary under a will.
As owners, it is important to consider options for their care should you become unable to continue and for when you die.
Expressing your wishes as to what you would like done and documenting a plan for their welfare is helpful to family, friends and your executors. Make sure you let them know.
Updating a will might seem a troublesome chore, but circumstances can change from the time it was made. The changes might produce unintended and unwanted outcomes in the event of death. Therefore reviewing a will is important to keep its contents in line with intentions.
Regularly reviewing your will every few years or so, in light of changes in your life, is worth doing, as life events and matters such as those outlined below can affect a will. Everyone’s situation is different so in all cases seek professional legal advice from a solicitor providing services in this area.
Dying without leaving a will, or leaving an invalid one, is to die intestate. Dying intestate means property left (the estate) is distributed according to the intestacy law. The intestacy law has been prescribed by legislation as the ‘default’ rules to apply in these circumstances. The problem is that the intestacy formula for distribution may not produce the desired outcome.
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common give different outcomes when an owner dies
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are ways of owning property with others. Each works differently when an owner dies, see graphic below. This impacts who will inherit the deceased owner’s share. These graphics seek to highlight how each tenancy works.
In a joint tenancy, when one owner dies, the surviving one automatically owns the whole property. This happens independently of any will (and probate) because of the right of survivorship attaching to this tenancy type.
Many people own property with another person in a co-ownership arrangement. Spouses or partners typically own their residence together in joint names, family members; or friends may own a property together for investment.
An important issue to consider upfront when buying property are the consequences of when a co-owner dies. How the property is owned between people, that is, its tenancy, can give very different outcomes on death. Ideally these should be considered at the time of purchase.
Questions to ask include who can take a co-owner’s interest when they die? Would this be what they want to have happen? If not, can they state their intention in their will? Or is the property owned in a way that on death the interest automatically passes to the survivor/s outside of a will, as in joint tenancy? This article looks at tenancy issues. More →
Disposing property – what can be disposed of by a will and what can’t – property ownership and control issues
Only personally owned property may be dealt with by a will.
Disposing property by will, in the will-making process requires considerations to be given to what you own in your individual name, as opposed to what you might control, see further below. As only property owned in a personal or individual name can form a deceased estate, it is only this which can be transferred by will, (or the rules of intestacy).
Other property may be owned in the name of a company or trust. In these entities an individual may have controlthrough shareholdings or a power of appointment. When it comes to making a will, it is important to remember that such assets won’t form part of a person’s deceased estate and therefore cannot be disposed by their will. See the table below for examples of what are estate (disposable by will) and non-estate assets. Making a list of property, money and things to be disposed of and who owns what is important. More →