skip to log on skip to main content

A mother's will


July 2015

When Sarah made a simple Will before her second marriage, she thought her children would be looked after.
Unfortunately one thing was missing.





Women statistically live longer than men, and as a result they typically inherit property and financial holdings when a partner dies. But Sarah’s story shows us that life doesn’t always go to plan.

For generations women have been outliving their male partners. The trend continues today, with Australian women having a life expectancy of 84 years compared to 80 for men.1

As a result, women are more likely to inherit their partner’s assets.

Of course, life doesn’t always follow statistics. And putting too little emphasis on an estate plan could result in unintended consequences for your family if you pass away before your partner.

An estate plan outlines how you would like to distribute your assets, including your financial holdings and property, when you die.

Sarah and Tom

Sarah and Tom’s story, which is based on real events, illustrates the complexities of relationships today and how important a thorough estate plan can be.

Sarah and Tom met while travelling overseas and got engaged about 12 months later. They had both been married previously, and both had children from their previous relationships.

Sarah was clear in her mind that even though she was marrying Tom, she wanted her assets to go to her adult children when she passed away.

With that intention, she created a simple will that passed all her wealth to her children, with the exception of any assets she held jointly with Tom – which would pass to him as the sole survivor.

What Sarah didn’t realise was that her substantial super balance (which made up the majority of her estate) would not necessarily pass in accordance with her will.

Experienced advice and personal strategies

Contact us

What happened?

When Sarah passed away a few years later, Tom, who had assumed he would be the beneficiary of her superannuation, submitted a case to the superannuation trustee. His case outlined that Sarah had intended to pass all of her superannuation to him, and he requested that the trustee use its discretion to see that wish carried out.

The trustee agreed with Tom’s request and as a result Sarah’s children were left with very little by way of assets – despite knowing that their mother had intended to provide for them.

Distressed at the trustee’s decision, Sarah’s children lodged an appeal to the Superannuation Complains Tribunal. Following the appeal the children received 20 per cent of Sarah’s super, with the remaining 80 per cent going to Tom. This outcome differed significantly from Sarah’s intended goals.

What could have been done differently?

Adding a binding nomination on her superannuation would have changed this situation dramatically and ensured that Sarah’s children received the funds she had intended for them.

A binding nomination enables you to nominate exactly where you want your superannuation to go, and in what proportions. It also means the trustee cannot use its discretion when allocating a superannuation benefit.

Keeping your estate plan up-to-date

Professional estate planning is a crucial advice tool to use if your life is a little complex - and for most people today this is the case.

Whether that complexity arises from owning a business, a new relationship, an inheritance or substantial assets, estate planners can help you navigate a maze of regulations to ensure your intentions are meet when you pass away.

A comprehensive estate plan should document what will happen to all of the estate’s assets if something happens to you. Importantly, it should also consider the tax consequences of who the assets are going to.

For example, superannuation benefits are generally tax-free in the hands of a spouse or dependent child, but they may be taxable in the hands of an adult child – which could significantly erode the size of the benefit.

The best way to avoid any future complications is to seek professional advice regularly, and particularly as your life or marital status changes. It’s an important step for all women to stay in control of your assets and your legacy.


To discuss what this insight could mean for you, talk to your ANZ Private Banker directly, or contact us below.

You might also like

Focused on building wealth? Don’t forget the risks

December 2017


We’re so focused on creating wealth that protecting it can be a second thought. Think about insurance, estate planning, financial advice, succession planning, and more.

Read more

Family ties and planning your estate

September 2015


Professional estate planning advice can help you ensure the people and causes you would most like to support are recognised in your will.

Read more

Why and how to diversify your investments

August 2017


Investment diversification is the golden rule of managing risk, which is more real today than ever, writes Alan Hartstein.

Read more

Contact us

How to Become an ANZ Private Client

To find out more about how to become a Private Client, share your details here.

Request a call back


Email ANZ Private

Email us with your query and we'll reply to you directly.

Send an email

Call us

Speak to the ANZ Private team directly

1800 316 926

We're available weekdays 9:00am to 6:00pm AEST

Find an ANZ Private office

Our locations across Australia

Find an office

1. Gender Indicators, Australia, Feb 2015 – Australian Bureau of Statistics

ANZ Private Bankers are representatives of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited ABN 11 005 357 522 (ANZ), the holder of Australian Financial Services Licence number 234527. This document ("document") is distributed to you by ANZ and may not be reproduced, distributed or published by any recipient for any purpose.

The information provided is general in nature only and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider its appropriateness to you before making any investment decisions. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice. For any product referred to above, ANZ recommends that you read any relevant offer document or product disclosure statement and consider if the product is appropriate for you. For products issued by ANZ, these documents are available at This document is current as at the date of this publication but is subject to change. The document is provided and issued by ANZ unless another author is specified in the document, in which case it is provided and issued by that author. The views expressed are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of ANZ, its employees or directors. Whilst care has been taken in preparing this document, ANZ and its related entities do not warrant or represent that the document is accurate or complete. To the extent permitted by law, ANZ and its related entities do not accept any responsibility or liability from the use of the information. Past performance is not indicative of future performance and any case study shown is for illustrative purposes only. Neither are a prediction of the actual outcome which will be achieved. Some of this information may have tax implications. We recommend that you seek specialist tax advice on how it may impact your tax obligations, liabilities or entitlements.