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Family (Discretionary) Trust

There are two main types of trust: Discretionary Trust and Unit Trust. A Discretionary trust is commonly used in the family structure because of the nature of discretionary and flexibility.


A Family Discretionary Trust is created by a legal document called a “Trust Deed”. The Trust Deed:

– Outlines the purpose of the trust.

– Details the rights and obligations of the trustees and beneficiaries

– Contains the powers of the trustee

– Identifies various parties such as initial Beneficiaries, Trustees & Appointor.


There are four (4) important roles in the trust relationship, namely:

– The Settlor – The Settlor must be an independent person, who cannot be a trustee and cannot be a beneficiary of the trust, and their spouse and children cannot be beneficiaries. A Settlor must be unrelated to the Trust.

– The Appointor – The Appointor controls the trust, and can remove or replace the trustee. If the trustee does not follow the Appointor’s directions, the Appointor can simply remove the trustee and appoint another trustee. Some of the Trustee powers can only be exercised with the consent of the appointor. Effectively and practically, the Appointor will be a person controlling the Trust, that person will be the main player or investor in the whole transaction. The Appointor controls the Trust by controlling the Trustee appointment and removal. An Appointor can also be a beneficiary of the Trust.

– The Beneficiaries – A beneficiary is a person for whose benefit the trustee holds trust property. In most trust deeds “initial beneficiaries” are noted in a schedule and are usually family members or other close relatives.

– The Trustee – The Trustee is appointed by the Appointor with powers contained in the trust deed and the Trustee Act 1958. Such power may be quite wide and extensive. The Trustee owes a duty of care of “good faith” to the beneficiaries, and the deed requires that all trustee(s), at all times, act in the best interests of all beneficiaries. A trustee can also be a beneficiary of the Trust.


One of the many reasons to set up a Family Trust is to protecting against relationship property claims. Since the trust asset is legally held by the trustee on behalf of the beneficiaries, the asset is protected from relationship claim or divorce proceeding should such a relationship turns bad or sour.


However, for the purpose of the Family Law Act 1975 the term “property” has a very broad definition. There is a situation where neither the husband nor wife is a beneficiary of the Trust, the assets of the trust can be available for the “matrimonial property pool” based on factors such as the assets having been built up by the contributions of the parties over a long period.


Family Assets

All the property owned by you and your partner, either in your joint names or in your individual names, is known as the “matrimonial asset pool”. In general, there is no differentiation between the assets that whether they are prior acquired or acquired after the marriage. All assets and liabilities that are owned or owed by either party prior to the marriage, accumulated during the marriage, and acquired or incurred post-separation, would be included in the matrimonial asset pool.


There is no presumption that assets are divided equally or in any other way in the event of the division of property between a husband and wife, or de facto partners, when they separate. The guiding principle of property division by the court is “just and equitable”.


Generally, the Family Court takes a four-step process for working out what percentage of the property each of the party should get:


1. Working out the matrimonial asset pool.

2. Assessing and allowing for the contributions, including both financial and non-financial, from each party to the asset pool.

3. After assessing your respective contributions, the court would then determine whether there ought to be a loading in either parties favour to reflect ‘needs’.

4. Ensures that the outcome of the previous three steps are ‘just and equitable’, or fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.


In a situation where the asset is held by the trust, the court will also examine the influence and control over the trust by the party to determine whether the asset should be included in the matrimonial asset pool.


The hallmark case is the 2008 High Court decision of Kennon v Spry. In the case, the husband amended the trust deed, in particular, after their relationship turns bad, to remove both him and his wife as beneficiaries. The court eventually decided the trust can be included in the asset pool of separating parties. The court held that the test here is one of control. The case indicates the court will look at the extent to which the parties of the relationship had control of the trust and examine how the trust operates to decide whether the trust to be included in the asset pool.



(1) If you desire a family trust that has protection against relationship property claims, you must act earlier rather than wait until the relationship turns sour.  It usually too late once you believe that you may need to set up a trust or an amendment of the existing trust to protect your interest.


(2) You must seriously consider the structure of the trust and obtain legal advice when setting up a family trust.


(3) Every single family has a different financial situation and purposes of setting up a family trust, and there is no universal template that can fit your specific needs. You should obtain advice from lawyer, accountant or other relevant advisors before you take action.


For more information, please contact our office.


Joint Tenancy vs Tenancy in Common

When individuals purchase property together, there are two types of property ownership, being:

– Joint Tenancy

– Tenancy in Common


As joint tenancy, a right of survivorship exists. This means that if one of the joint tenants dies, the property will automatically be pass to the surviving joint tenant. It is important to note that this happens regardless of any contrary intention in the will of the deceased. Furthermore, all joint tenants have equal ownership and interest in the property.


As tenancy in common, the parties could own property in any shares or portion that they desire. A tenant in common can sell their shares of the property or give them away in a will. This means that there is no right of survivorship.


Foreign persons are usually required to obtain FIRB approval before they are able to purchase residential property in Australia. However, foreign persons purchasing property as joint tenants with their spouse (who is not a foreign person), is not required to obtain such FIRB approval. This is not the case if the property is to be owned as tenancy in common (FIRB approval is required).


For more information, please contact our office.



Prove Who Are You

When you sign certain documents relating to a Conveyancing Transaction or your legal representative provides you with your Certificate of Title, you must have your identity verified in a formal manner.

Verification of Identity or VoI is not a new concept in Australian law. It is a process carried out to ensure that a person is who they claim to be, thus to reduce the risks of identity fraud and fraudulent property transactions.

Lawyers and conveyancers are required to verify the identity of their clients themselves, or use a VOI Agent, including Australia Post, ZipID or IDSecure.

Australian citizens and residents who are overseas and are having their identity verified in accordance with the Model Participation Rules VOI Standard must have their identity verified at an Australian Consular Office.

The person being identified will need to provide original and current documents. In most cases, Australian Passport or foreign passport, plus Australian drivers licence or Photo Card, plus change of name or marriage certificate (if necessary) are needed.

For further information please refer to the Model Participation Rules and ARNECC Guidance Note 2 – Verification of Identity prescribed by Australian Registrars National E-Conveyancing Council, or just contact us:

Melbourne Office: +03 8080 0510

Sydney Office: +02 8866 2960


457 visa changes: What you need to know

In March 2018, the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457 visa) was replaced by the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482). This visa is designed to fill gaps in the Australian labour market, while ensuring that Australian workers get priority.

There are three main streams available under this new TSS visa program:

  • Short-term stream – this is for employers to source genuine temporary overseas skilled workers in occupations included on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) for a maximum of two years (or up to four years if an international trade obligation applies) with no pathway to permanent residency.
  • Medium-term stream – this is for employers to source highly skilled overseas workers to fill medium-term critical skills in occupations included on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for up to four years, with eligibility to apply for permanent residence after three years.
  • Labour Agreement stream for exceptional cases where standard visa programs are not available and there is a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market.

Who could get this visa

You might be able to get this visa, as an overseas worker, if you:

  • have been nominated for a position by an approved sponsor and that nomination has been approved
  • meet any required skills and qualifications requirements including completing any skills assessments required
  • meet English language requirements
  • if in Australia, hold a substantive visa, a subclass 010 (Bridging A) visa, a subclass 020 (Bridging B) visa or a Subclass 030 (Bridging C) visa
  • have substantially complied with any conditions that apply or applied to your last visa
  • meet health and character requirements




Approved sponsor


Please be aware that before you can apply for a TSS visa, your proposed employer will need to lodge a nomination application for you. They will only be able to do this if they are an approved sponsor or have at least lodged an application to become a standard business sponsor.


For more information on TSS Visa – see: Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482)


All You Need to Know about e-Conveyancing

What is e-Conveyancing/Electronic Conveyancing?

The term “Electronic Conveyancing” refers to a conveyancing transaction settled electronically through the platform provided by Property Exchange Australia Limited (PEXA).

What e-Conveyancing does?

E-conveyancing is effectively a virtual settlement room that stores the data required for lodgement of dealings at Land Victoria and the transfer of funds at settlement. At a nominated time the funds are transferred and data lodged. It is not involved in the other aspects of the conveyancing transaction.

Why use e-Conveyancing?

  • Less manual processes and paperwork associated with property settlement by enabling lawyers, conveyancers and financial institutions to transact together online,
  • Availability to lodge documents and complete financial settlements electronically,
  • Reduction of risk associated with errors and delays, giving all parties greater certainty of successful, on-time settlement,
  • Greater assurance and protection for parties that dealings will be registered almost immediately after settlement, avoiding the risk inherent in delays.

The Prospect

e-Conveyancing is currently live in five states and is a collaboration between many industry participants, including financial institutions, Land Registries and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

PEXA is committed to supporting the property industry as it transitions towards a 100% digital future.

ATO Changes

Changes to GST payments at settlement Effective 1 JULY 2018

ATO is changing the way they collect goods and services tax (GST) on some property transactions during the settlement process.

From 1 July 2018, purchasers of new residential premises or potential residential land are required to withhold an amount of the contract price and pay this directly to ATO as part of the settlement process. The amount of GST will not change.

This does not affect the sales of existing residential properties or the sales of new or existing commercial properties.

How the change may affect you

For property transactions, purchasers will need to:

  • split the amount of GST from the total purchase price
  • pay the GST component directly to ATO by a disbursement at settlement
  • pay the GST exclusive purchase price to the property developer (vendor).

Property developers will need to give written notification to the purchasers when they need to withhold. The information can be included in the sale contract or in a separate document. The liability for the GST remains with the vendor, and there are no changes to how vendors lodge their business activity statements.

What you should do next

Developers should seek legal advice to ensure contracts for residential premises (including existing residential premises, new residential premises and potential residential land) are properly drafted or amended to comply with the changes proposed by the Bill. Developers will also need to carefully consider the cash flow and other economic impacts of the changes on their current and future developments.

Financiers of developers will need to factor in the effect of the withholding provisions when assessing funding requests, particularly in relation to presale requirements and the number of settlements required for repayment.

Buyers should ensure that they are aware of, and comply with, their withholding obligations (whether or not those are described in the contract).

If you are unsure of the correct GST treatment of the property purchase you are making, it is recommended you seek advice from ATO, or your tax professional. Conveyancers and real estate agents are not able to provide GST advice unless they are a Registered Tax or BAS (business activity statement) Agent.