Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Half your age, plus seven

Matthew Burgess Half your age, plus seven

Many family lawyers will relay that there appears to be a disproportionate level of relationship difficulties where there is a significant gap in the ages of the spouses - hence the above quoted rule of thumb to ensure the age gap is no more than half you age, plus seven years, see - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Half-age-plus-seven-relationship-rule.svg

In Alderton v C of T [2015] AATA 807) the rule of thumb was breached by around 10 years (the de facto husband, Trapperton, was 42 to and the de facto wife, Alderton, was 18 when the relationship commenced).

Alderton was financially dependent on Trapperton.

For some years, a trust that Trapperton was trustee of made distributions to Alderton. Alderton had no knowledge of the existence of the trust nor that withdrawals from her debit card and online banking were in fact trust distributions.

After the relationship ended, a trust return was filed that based on the distributions caused an assessment for Alderton.

Alderton then, some years later, attempted to disclaim the income she had, unwittingly, received from the trust.

The Tax Office, and in turn the court, ignored the attempted disclaimer and Alderton remained liable to pay the tax assessed.

The fact that Alderton had no knowledge of the conduct or operations of trust was irrelevant as to her liability to pay tax on the distributions she had effectively been made presently entitled to.

As set out in earlier posts (see for example - http://blog.viewlegal.com.au/2014/10/some-ramifications-of-failed-trust.html) in order for a disclaimer to be made retrospectively, it must be done so within a reasonable period of time from the beneficiary first becoming aware of the relevant interest that they wish to disclaim.

The disclaimer must also be an absolute rejection of the gift. Here, although the disclaimer was likely made 'in time', Alderton had in fact used the funds distributed to her and was therefore unable to provide an effective disclaimer.

This conclusion stood despite the court questioning the 'discreditable' conduct of the trustee in taking advantage of Alderton's naivety.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock