2nd December 2019

R. Hugh Magill delivered the 2019 W A Lee Equity Lecture on the topic ‘Estate Planning and Trust Management in a Brave New World: It’s All in the Family…What’s a Family?’

Now in its 20th year, the W A Lee Equity Lecture is a calendar highlight for many members of Brisbane’s legal community. The QUT Faculty of Law would like to thank the Honourable Chief Justice Catherine Holmes for chairing the evening and the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC, Chair of the Queensland Community Foundation Board of Governors, for her kind vote of thanks.

Mr Magill is Vice Chairman of the Northern Trust Company and a licensed U.S. attorney. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, an Academician of the International Academy of Estate and Trust Law, and a faculty member of the American Bankers Association National Trust School, specialising in estate and charitable planning, trust management, family governance, and fiduciary risk management. 

R. Hugh Magill delivering the 2019 W A Lee Equity Lecture.

Mr Magill explored how evolving family structures present new challenges in estate planning and the allocation of financial wealth. He argued that the character traits and family demographics of the different generations, Traditionalists, Boomers, Generation Xs and Millennials, influenced each generations’ approach to estate planning.

“The dispositions of wealth by the Traditionalist Generation were generally not accompanied by discussions about wealth and wealth transfer. These were things that families didn’t talk about. Contemporary and Boomer families, though, need and want to discuss these issues, but they need help in the process. They do not have a model to follow, and they can benefit from our counsel about how to have these kinds of conversations,” he said.

Mr Magill discussed the complexities of increasing divorce rates, same-sex relationships and artificial reproductive technology in contemporary families that create challenges relating to the distribution of wealth that did not exist when ‘traditional’ families, those with two parents and three biological children, were the norm.

Mr Magill, however, offered hope for the future of estate planning in coping with these changes.

“The planning process is becoming less paternalistic and colloquial, and evolving into one that is more engaging and adaptable to family composition; one that is less narrow culturally to one that is more cognizant of diverse cultural perspectives; and finally one that adds to its perspective on the balance sheet an enlarged understanding of each family’s total wealth,” he said.

The W A Lee Equity Lecture is held each year in honour of foremost equity and trusts academic and author, Honorary Professor W A ‘Tony’ Lee. Tony is the co-author of Principles of the Law of Trusts and was Commissioner for Law Reform Queensland between 1990 and 1996.

“It was an honour to host the 20th W A Lee Lecture, and a wonderful pleasure to be able to do so in the company of Tony Lee. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our speaker, Mr Magill, the Honourable Chief Justice Catherine Holmes for allowing us to use the Banco Court, and the sponsors who made the event possible,” said Professor Dan Hunter, Executive Dean of the QUT Faculty of Law.

Thank you to this year’s event sponsors, the Queensland Law Society, Queensland Community Foundation, Bar Association of Queensland, Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and QUT Faculty of Law.

To view photos of the event, please visit the QUT Faculty of Law Flickr page. Past lectures can be accessed in the QUT Law Review, the Faculty of Law’s open access journal.

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