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Bilked at First Sight

A recent hot topic in reality TV discussions has been the latest season of MAFS (Married At First Sight).  I admit, perhaps not surprisingly, that dealing with Wills and Estates day-in, day-out has the side effect of drawing my mind immediately to the estate planning implications of relationships, and this one is quite interesting.

Reportedly, in some countries featuring this show, the marriages are actually legally valid. You would hope (although it’s doubtful) that the participants of these shows have Wills prepared as part of the process prior to entering into a legally valid marriage to a complete stranger! Take, for example, the current Australian MAFS couple Selin & Anthony.  They each have a child, as does MAFS co-star, Carolina.  Given the little we know about these contestants, it is fair to make an assumption that they would intend for their respective children to receive the full benefit of their wealth when they pass away.  At this stage of the show, none of these contestants appear to particularly like their MAFS spouse and yet, if these marriages were legally valid and if they were to die whilst filming the show (say, travelling back from the honeymoon to Sydney HQ) the spouse (who was a complete stranger not too long ago) would be legally entitled to a significant chunk of the wealth, at the expense of the child. That is, unless they had signed a Will “in contemplation of” the marriage before the show.

Even if they had a Will, the legal marriage would render the existing Will invalid.  Without a Will, the law provides for a spouse to receive some of the assets if there is a child from a previous relationship (the exact amount will depend on the State), and all of the assets if there are no children.

For these contestants, if they had executed a binding death benefit nomination directing their superannuation be paid to their child when they died, then it’s possible the superannuation could be effectively quarantined for the child, but this would not be the case for a participant without a valid superannuation dependent.  For example, consider MAFS couple, Jackson and Olivia.  Although neither one of this young couple have a child, both seem to have extremely close relationships with their respective mothers.  However, if they had named Mum as the beneficiary of their superannuation, the superannuation fund may still consider the nomination invalid (unless they are still living at home with Mum) and decide to pay the funds to the spouse instead.

Even in Australia, where the marriages are not legally binding (thankfully!), if one of the MAFS contestants dies whilst filming the show, it would be interesting to see whether the fact they were currently living in a ‘marriage-like relationship’ at the time of their death would give rise to a financial interest in their estate to their MAFS partner.  The relationship isn’t long enough for it to become a Family Law issue, but there are definitely estate planning considerations at play.

Although the majority of us will never be part of something quite so extreme as the MAFS experience, many people do get married or enter into de facto relationships without realising the impact this can have on how their assets may be distributed after their death – even if they did have a Will before the wedding.

If this article prompts you to think that maybe it’s time to create your own will or review any current documentation you have Burke & Associates Lawyers offers a 15 minute complimentary consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.  If would simply like to know more about the legal services we provide please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our Wills & Estates lawyers by phoning +61 3 9822 8588 or via email to Rohani Bixler, Luke Palmer or our support team.

 

Contacts

Meghan Warren

Principal

Meghan Warren

Principal
LL.B GAICD B.Bus (FinPlan)
Meghan is one of the few lawyers in Australia admitted in the State (Victoria) and Federal jurisdictions of Australia, and as an Attorney at Law to the New York State Bar in the United States.

Rosy Roberts

Principal

Rosy Roberts

Principal
LL.B (Hons) B.A GAICD
Rosy has extensive experience in Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution having represented clients in all Victorian State Courts and the High Court of Australia. She is also a VCAT appointed Administrator.

Rohani Bixler

Special Counsel

Rohani Bixler

Special Counsel
LL.B (Hons) BA (PSYCH)
Rohani holds a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from Monash University, and has practiced exclusively in the areas of estate planning, deceased estate administration and estate litigation and disputes since...

Luke Palmer

Associate

Luke Palmer

Associate
LL.B BA
Luke is passionate about making things as simple as possible for people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Eleni (Helen) Andreou

Paralegal
LL.B BSc
Helen has over eight years of experience providing support for lawyers and assisting clients.

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