Our Services

Wills, attorneys and estate planning

We are a top tier estate planning firm.  Individuals, couples and family groups engage us either directly or via their accountant or financial planner to advise on strategies and draft or review their estate planning documents.

Our services include:

  • Wills, including testamentary trusts and trusts for vulnerable beneficiaries
  • Independent review of existing estate plans
  • Powers of attorney (financial personal and medical)
  • Strategies to reduce risk of claims against your estate
  • International estate, trust and taxation planning
  • Superannuation and family trust succession
  • Farming and business succession
  • Special disability trusts
  • Establishing private ancillary funds
  • Establishing other charitable trusts

Recent matters

We assisted the owner of a family company with $40m turnover and a large number of trust and company entities to put succession arrangements in place that provided for family members involved in the business and other members outside of the business.   The client had been procrastinating for years about his estate planning, however we demonstrated to him that just because his affairs were complex the solution did not have to be.

A couple each had children by their first marriage and wanted to provide for each other but at the same time protect their respective childrens’ interests.  We put in place a plan to do this and eliminated the risk of one family taking everything.

A client wanted to provide for all of her children but especially for one who had a disability.  We helped her put in place succession arrangements to provide for her disabled child in a tax-effective manner directly from her superannuation fund with further options of special disability trust benefits. Importantly we implemented appropriate trustee appointments to help ensure the disabled child will be looked after for her entire life.

In collaboration with a client’s accountant, we helped the client establish a Private Ancillary Fund with key features that protected the client’s long-term goals in regard to the Fund’s management and made changes to the client’s Will to give greater certainty and more favourable taxation outcomes.

Superannuation

Accountants and advisers regularly seek our advice in regard to SMSF transactions (such as property developments and investments via unit trusts).  We are held in high regard for our expertise in succession strategies for family trusts and assisting clients put in place superannuation binding death benefit nominations.

Our services include:

  • Establishment of new SMSFs and family trusts
  • Amendment of deeds
  • Borrowing and investment by superannuation funds
  • Pension strategies
  • SMSF death benefit strategies and nominations
  • Family trust succession
  • Lost trust deeds
  • Family trust disputes between beneficiaries and trustees
  • SMSF superannuation disputes and Superannuation Complaints Tribunal hearings

Recent matters

We acted for three siblings who had inherited control of a family trust and continued to successfully operate and grow the family business operated by the trust.  They realised they and their respective families’ position was vulnerable in the event of their death or incapacity.  With our assistance at family conferences they agreed on and then implemented a strategy to protect the interests of each family, supported by a private ruling from the Australian Taxation Office, with no adverse capital gains tax or stamp duty consequences.

An accountant’s terminally ill client had significant wealth including an SMSF of $20 million.  We were engaged to quickly analyse the client’s existing succession arrangements and identified a number of shortcomings and we suggested an alternative strategy which was then implemented.   We enabled the client to be secure in the knowledge that his wishes would be carried out, reduced the likelihood of disputes and helped his beneficiaries save a significant amount in taxation.

A widow was told that her husband had left a binding superannuation nomination leaving most of his superannuation to other parties.  We investigated the bona fides of the nomination and then launched a successful challenge, resulting in payment of most of the superannuation to our client.

Executor and trustee advice

We offer probate services and advise and assist executors and trustees to understand and carry out their duties.  We act as executor and trustee for certain clients.

Trustees of estates and family trusts often seek our counsel as to their obligations especially if the terms of the trust are not clear or where disputes may arise or have arisen.

We have significant experience in establishing charitable funds during a person’s lifetime and establishing charitable trusts by Wills.

  • Probate applications
  • Executor assist services
  • Trustee advice

Recent matters

A group of beneficiaries had reached a stalemate over a number of issues regarding the administration of their mother’s estate and trusts.  They had received conflicting advice and were heading down the path of separate legal representation and costly court action.  Using our 35 years’ + experience in estate and trust administration and of tax law we were able to guide the parties towards an outcome that satisfied everyone, at a fraction of the cost that they otherwise were going to incur.

A family had been operating a testamentary trust for a number of years and the growth of subsequent generations was creating difficulty in managing the trust.  We co-ordinated family conferences and helped the various parties agree on a restructure of the trust to give greater certainty to each arm of the family.

Tax and duties

Our tax and duties lawyers have more than 50 years’ experience between them providing advice to accountants, financial planners, other lawyers and their clients who are small and medium sized businesses, family groups and individuals. The advice we provide is commercial and solution focussed. In addition to planning and structuring advice we help clients obtain commercial outcomes with disputes they may have with the Australian Taxation office or the State Revenue Office.

  • Income tax;
  • Capital Gains Tax;
  • Property tax issues;
  • Tax planning;
  • Tax disputes and challenging Tax Office assessments;
  • GST;
  • Trusts;
  • Structuring and restructuring; and
  • State taxes including stamp duty, land tax and payroll tax

Recent matters

A client, referred to us by an accountant, was selling some land, owned by a trust, for a very large capital gain. After receiving advice from us as well as assistance in drafting the relevant trust distribution resolutions the client was able to access a number of tax concessions to reduce the taxable capital gain substantially and save a large amount of tax.

A family group wanted to divide their deceased parents’ assets and go their separate ways. After seeking advice from us we recommended a course of action that enabled each child to obtain the assets they wanted in a way that minimised both capital gains tax and stamp duty.

The Tax Office audited our client and intended to issue him with an amended assessment with a large tax bill plus penalties and interest. We assisted the client and his accountant in negotiations with the Tax Office. We convinced the Tax Office their intended application of some complex tax laws was incorrect.

Business and commercial

We are trusted advisers to business owners and help them acquire and dispose of business interests.  We are also well known for helping clients implement internal succession arrangements including via shareholder, unitholder and buy-sell agreements.

Our services

  • Establishing/amending wealth structures such as trusts and companies
  • Conducting due diligence on purchase of businesses
  • Advising on appropriate structures and taxation matters when acquiring or disposing of businesses;
  • Business succession agreements including advice on issues such as trigger events, taxation consequences and valuation options
  • Co-ordinating conferences for business owners and family groups
  • Agribusiness succession planning

Recent matters

Acted on behalf of an accounting firm that was merging with another firm, including advising on terms of merger, appropriate entity structures and arrangements for future sharing of revenue between the new principals.

Acted for specialist medical practitioners who were looking to restructure their enterprise to give optimum outcomes from a taxation, stamp duty and asset protection perspective, and then made arrangements for future business succession to give the parties and their families certainty.  Part of this involved re-organising SMSF structures and investment in business real property.

Acted for a franchisee in acquiring a business including negotiating terms of franchise agreement and setting up entities for asset protection purposes.

Litigation and disputes

We have significant experience dealing with disputes across all of our practice areas, generally divided into the following two groups:

Wills, Estates & Trust Disputes

We are strong and passionate advocates for those who have not be dealt with fairly or who are encountering difficult executors, trustees or beneficiaries.  We aim to resolve disputes cost effectively but are always prepared to pursue matters with vigour where litigation is warranted.

Families often seek our assistance in guardianship and administration matters, including where financial abuse is suspected, and we regularly appear before VCAT as well as in the Supreme and County Courts.

Services include:

  • Instigating and defending estate litigation
  • Instigating and defending VCAT proceedings
  • Trustee applications for court directions
  • Removal of recalcitrant executors and trustees
  • Cy-pres applications
  • Superannuation death benefit disputes
  • Superannuation Complaint Tribunal matters

Recent matters

We acted for one of two executors who were in dispute over the determination of the size of their mother’s estate.  The main issue was whether advances made by the mother during her lifetime should be treated as gifts or loans.  We successfully proved the advances should be treated as our client wanted them to be treated.

We acted for two step-children whose parent had died some years ago leaving her asset to her then spouse on the understanding he would look after our clients as well as his own children.  He subsequently changed his will and left assets to his children only.  We successfully challenged his will resulting in a significant portion of his estate passing to our clients.

Our client and her two siblings acted as attorney for their mother.  One child had already benefit from his mother’s assets and was seeking to procure additional, significant benefits.  We brought the matter before VCAT and successfully applied for our client’s brother’s removal as attorney.

Key Contacts

Bernie O’Sullivan

Nicole Wilson

 

Tax & Duty Disputes

We are often called in by accountants to help their clients when they are being audited or when the ATO or SRO has issued amended assessments and is claiming more tax, GST, land tax or payroll tax is owed. As we are client focussed we understand that a timely, cost effective resolution is what most clients want. We are passionate in helping clients who are often ‘out gunned’ by the well-resourced revenue authorities. At all stages of the dispute process we provide clients with practical options for resolving their dispute.

Services include:

  • Preparing private binding ruling applications
  • Preparing tax objections
  • Representing clients in negotiations with the ATO
  • Representing clients in disputes with the SRO
  • Challenging ATO decisions in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or Federal Court
  • Representing clients when they have been served with section 263 and section 264 notices and required to attend and give evidence under oath

Recent matters

After being audited a client received very large amended tax assessments with significant penalties and interest. Objections against the amended assessments were lodged on behalf of the client and then after lengthy negotiations with the ATO on behalf of the client the ATO agreed to most items and the matter was settled significantly in the client’s favour saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A client had received assessments of Superannuation Guarantee Charge and penalties. After reviewing the matter advice was provided to the client that the ATO had incorrectly applied their own guidelines.  As a result the client was able to successfully object to the assessments to obtain a significant reduction in the penalties applied.

A client was contacted by the SRO regarding a liability to land tax of a property near a popular Victorian seaside town.  After receiving advice, the client was able to persuade the SRO that the property qualified for an exemption from land tax.

Key Contacts

Robert Warnock

Patrick Cussen