Aitken Lawyers to Merge With Melbourne-based law firm Russell Kennedy

We are very pleased at Aitken Lawyers, to announce that we have agreed to merge with Melbourne-based law firm, Russell Kennedy.

It’s a decision that has been many months in the making, following an approach earlier this year from the team at Russell Kennedy who saw us as a logical partner in the Sydney market. We know it’s the right move for the people who matter to us – our valued employees and our talented team of people.

Indeed, what became clear throughout the discussions is that Russell Kennedy and Aitken Lawyers are a natural fit. We share similar culture and values, and complementary expertise and capability.

In bringing together the respective pedigree of the two firms, we’ll be focused on building a combined offering that draws on our common strengths: a commitment to outstanding client service based on long-standing relationships, and a focus on retaining and attracting the best people.

Russell Kennedy has more than 230 people including 37 principals across a range of practice areas – some of which will add to our capability and help us grow in areas where we don’t currently operate. They’re particularly strong in local government where they act for some 50 local government authorities across Victoria. They also bring strong capability in corporate and commercial, property and development, dispute resolution, aged care and retirement living and workplace relations, employment and safety, among other areas. These tie in nicely with our strengths across commercial, property, litigation, estate planning and estates, family law and our rural sector and renewable energy practices. You can find out more about Russell Kennedy via their website.

First, we are pleased to say that all of our people, as well as the team at Russell Kennedy, will be part of the combined firm. This means you continue to work with the same people while, over time, having access to an even broader range of capability and expertise across Sydney and Melbourne. You’ll also be pleased to know that there’ll be no change to our fee structure and other commercial arrangements as a result of the merger.

The merger agreement is due to take effect on 1 March 2019. Over the coming months, our focus will be ensuring a smooth and seamless transition for you. Long term, the firm will operate as Russell Kennedy, and will be adopting an interim name during the transition phase – details of which we’ll provide when it has been decided.

You’ll find more information about today’s announcement in the Q&A page accessible via this link . And, if you’d like to speak to someone, don’t hesitate to contact us.

With your valued support, I’m very proud of the firm we’ve built over the past decade or so, and I’m excited as we take this next step to enable us to better service your needs into the future.

Best regards

Andrew Aitken

Have you nominated a superannuation beneficiary? – Be Warned….

Have you nominated a superannuation beneficiary? – Be Warned….

On 20 August 2017, the Sydney Daily Telegraph published an article about Daniel Leverton who died suddenly aged just 40 and whose girlfriend of nine months was awarded the bulk of his superannuation. Daniel had two children from a previous relationship. They missed out on receiving most of the superannuation as Daniel had not nominated a  superannuation beneficiary.

As a result, Daniel’s military superannuation fund decided that three quarters of his superannuation benefits and life insurance be paid to his girlfriend whom they considered to be his “de facto partner”.

If Daniel had completed a valid binding death benefit nomination, then it may have been a different story as to who received his superannuation.

Have you nominated a superannuation beneficiary?

Many of Aitken Lawyers’ clients are surprised to find out superannuation does not automatically form part of your estate.

You cannot gift superannuation in your Will unless you have in place a valid binding superannuation death benefit nomination with your relevant superannuation fund and all other requirements to make it binding have been complied with.

Those preparing Wills as part of an overall estate plan often neglect to pay as much attention to super as their Wills.  With compulsory superannuation having been the law for many years now, many individuals have significant amounts in super.  The balance shown on an annual super statement can be misleading if there is a life insurance component in place.  In reality, if one passed away, the value of the super benefit in that case can be significantly higher because of the “hidden” life insurance component.

When you make a Will with us at Aitken Lawyers, we provide you with advice and recommendations as to how you can deal with your superannuation and other property that you cannot dispose of in your Will such as assets held as joint tenants or through trusts.

This is because at Aitken Lawyers, we believe it is important to respect and capture your wishes in order to avoid situations like this.  If you need to nominate a superannuation beneficiary, please contact Andrew Aitken of Aitken Lawyers on (02) 8987 0000.

Challenging a Will on the grounds of Incapacity

Challenging a Will on the grounds of Incapacity

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, dementia is the greatest cause of disability in Australians aged 65 years or older.  Currently, around 244 people are diagnosed with dementia each day and this figure is exponentially rising.  However, having dementia or any other mental disability does not necessarily mean a person cannot make a Will or did not have capacity when making their Will. So what are the considerations when challenging a will on the grounds of incapacity?

The disability, itself, must specifically affect the willmaker’s ability to:

  1. Understand the nature and effect of making a Will.
  2. Recall the assets at their disposal.
  3. Consider potential beneficiaries.
  4. Evaluate and determine the claims of those potential beneficiaries upon them.

Mental health is a vast, developing and sometimes transient landscape.  When challenging a will on the grounds of incapacity, consider, does the willmaker completely lack capacity or have intervals of lucidity?

Where a willmaker suffers from delusions, the delusions must specifically affect the willmaker’s ability to perform the above four points.  In Banks v Goodfellow, Banks suffered delusions that his butcher was “out to get him”.  However, his local butcher had been dead for over a decade and his Will provided for his niece, a near relative.  The court held that his delusions did not affect his ability to make a “sound” Will.

The court ultimately determines whether a willmaker has or had capacity to make a Will.  However, if you are concerned your loved one or friend does not have capacity, then you should consult a legal professional to conduct an assessment.

If you are concerned that a willmaker did not have capacity when making their Will and the willmaker has since passed, then you may claim the Will is invalid if you:

  • Would otherwise stand to benefit from the prior valid Will or where there is no prior valid Will, in accordance with the laws of intestacy; and
  • Can point to circumstances that raise doubt as to the willmaker’s capacity to make a Will.

For further information on challenging a will on the grounds of incapacity, conducting assessments, or for general estate planning advice, please contact our estate planning team on 02 8987 0000.

Solar farms and wind farms are really hot right now!

Solar farms and wind farms are really hot right now!

For quite some years now we have helped many landowners across a number of different states in their negotiations with developers and their documentation regarding solar farms and wind farms.

Although this technology has been in place in Europe and other countries for some years, in some ways it is still relatively new in Australia and is a developing area.  In fact solar is really hot (pardon the pun) at the moment.  While having solar farms and wind farms on your property can have some obvious financial benefit, there are many hidden traps that the landowners need to be protected from.  This is particularly so as the usual form is long term leases which can impact on the ability to sell, the value of the land and affect any future generations when land is passed down.

We have found that a large part in our role advising many groups of landowners and individuals has been education of the process through initial assessment, instruction and operation phases and how to negotiate the very best deal to protect the landowners.  Often it is not what is in the contracts but what is not there that is vital.  There are strict clauses in relation to weed control, continued use of the land for primary production, fire prevention and traffic movements and terms of access are just some of the issues that the landowners’ needs protection on.

Many groups of landowners and individuals have found that the advise and assistance provided by Aitken Lawyers has helped them to navigate the waters well and has been able to benefit the final arrangement they have entered into with their solar farms and wind farms.

If you or anyone you know needs assistance with any approaches from developers for solar farms and wind farms, please do not hesitate to contact Andrew Aitken on 02 8987 0000.