The distribution of an asset will depend upon the type of asset, and how it is owned. The four main types of assets are personal, joint, trust and superannuation.
Personal assets are those held in one’s personal name, such as a bank account or a registered Certificate of Title. Upon the death of the owner, the ownership of these assets falls to the estate and will be distributed in accordance with a Will, or, absent a Will, in accordance with intestacy rules.
Joint assets are held jointly with another person, and upon the death of one of the joint owners, the rule of ‘survivorship applies,’ whereby the survivor will assume the full interest of the asset.
Trust assets are legally held and controlled by a trustee for the benefit of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. The legal or beneficial owner depends on whether the trust was fixed or discretionary and whether the deceased was the trustee, appointor, or beneficiary. The distribution is governed by the trust deed.
Superannuation is a type of trust asset, but will not automatically form part of a personal estate. Superannuation is generally handled separately and can be paid pursuant to a binding or non-binding death benefit nomination, or according to the determination of the trustee. It can also be paid directly to dependents or to one’s estate.