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A Ten Point Strategy to Make Sure Your Estate Planning is Up to Date

By | Articles, Wills and Estates

It’s one of those things that we all know we should do – but we don’t necessarily want to do it. As adults we’re all aware that it’s important to have a will – and other measures – in place to ensure that our affairs are handled properly if something horrible were to happen. So at some point, most of us bite the bullet and “put our affairs in order.” For those of you who are still procrastinating, however, here are some tips to help you create an effective estate plan, and manage it once you’ve done so.

Begin by taking stock of your personal circumstances. Do so by making a comprehensive list of all of your assets, including but not limited to your investment portfolio, and all personal and real property.

Then consider the following:

  • How do you want you assets to be distributed?
  • Have you nominated a beneficiary under your superannuation policy?
  • Who will look after your children if something happens to you and/or your spouse?
  • Who can you trust to ensure that your wishes are carried out as stipulated in your will?
  • Who will handle your financial matters if you are unable to do so?
  • Who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you can no longer make them yourself?

The next step is to draft your will. You can do this (and draft other legal documents in your estate plan as long as you are at least 18 and don’t have any physical or psychological issues that would render you legally incompetent) with the assistance of a qualified legal professional, or on your own using legal resources available online. Although choosing the latter may seem like a more affordable option, consulting a lawyer can save you time and money in long run. Specifically, he or she can help determine which assets you can automatically include in your will – and which ones (such as joint assets, superannuation and life insurance policies) you can’t and most importantly, the implementation of strategies to ensure your hard-earned assets go to the beneficiaries you have chosen, as opposed to those you have not.

Don’t forget to choose an executor. This is crucial because the executor is the person who will oversee the distribution of your assets and other matters as stipulated in your will. Make sure it is someone you trust and is equipped to cope with family squabbles and any unpleasant issues that may surface. He or she may be a friend, relative or a financial or legal practitioner.

Next, make sure you’ve assigned power of attorney. By doing this, you’re giving someone the legal authority to make decisions and/or take certain actions on your behalf in certain circumstances. You can designate power of attorney to someone for only a limited time; in the event that you are no longer able to make your own decisions; or to make decisions regarding your medical care if you are unable to do so.

You should also consider creating an advance health directive.  Creating this document is another way to ensure that your wishes about medical treatment and related matters are known in the event that a catastrophic illness or injury renders you incapable of making decisions about your care.

While you are at it, talk to your Gold Coast Lawyers about the pros and cons of creating a testamentary trust. This is a trust that is included in your will, can be used to protect your assets, and will only take effect when you pass away.

This may be a viable option for you if:

  • Your beneficiaries are not yet legal adults
  • Your beneficiaries are mentally incapable of handling certain responsibilities
  • You want to keep your beneficiary/ies from squandering their inheritances
  • You do not want family assets to be divided in a divorce settlement
  • You want to protect family assets in the event of bankruptcy

The trustee, or person who administers the trust, will also be appointed in your will. He or she is in charge of the assets set aside for the beneficiaries until the trust is no longer in effect. How long the trust remains in place is up to you. Usually, it will be effective until a minor becomes an adult, gets married or successfully completes their education.

Once you’ve conferred with your lawyer and drafted all of the legal documents you’d like to include in your estate plan, let your executor and relatives know what they are and where you keep them. You should also keep and let them know where to find any other significant legal and financial paperwork including your:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Personal insurance policies
  • Documents pertaining to real estate holdings
  • Financial and retirement information
  • Superannuation papers
  • Investment documents (securities, share certificates, bonds)
  • Health insurance documents
  • Pensioner concession card
  • Any deposits for funeral investments

You should also get into the habit of going through all of the paperwork in your estate plan at least once or twice per year. Doing so will allow you to be proactive when it comes to making any changes. This is especially important when it comes to your will, which should be amended in the event of:

  • The sale of important assets
  • The creation of a family trust
  • The acquisition of new assets
  • Additional financial obligations
  • Changes to your personal affairs
  • Changes to your super or SMSF

Whenever you make changes to your will, you should also ensure that any beneficiary designations on insurance policies and so forth also reflect the changes. 

Finally, it is important to keep the lines of communication with relatives open throughout the estate planning process. By being candid about your wishes from the outset, you’ll reduce the likelihood any misunderstandings and hurt feelings in the long run.

Could an unsent text message be a valid will?

Will Shock: Could an unsent text message be a valid will?

By | Articles, Wills and Estates

In Queensland, a valid will is written and signed by either the person making the will (the Testator) or directed by the Testator in their presence.

The testator must sign or acknowledge the signature in the presence of two or more witnesses and the Testator must sign with the intention of executing the will.

The Queensland Supreme Court Case of Nichol v Nichol[1] recently delivered, saw the Court validate an unsent text message as a will.

A man died in October 2016 and was survived by his wife Julie of one year, who had left him days before. The deceased had a very close relationship with his brother David and nephew Jack. His death was sudden and unexpected.

No formal will was ever found, but when the body was discovered, his mobile phone was nearby.

There was an unsent text message saved to drafts which read:

“Dave Nic you and Jack keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden with Trish Julie will take her stuff only she’s ok gone back to her ex AGAIN I’m beaten. A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank Cash card pin 3636 MRN190162Q 10/10/2016 My will”

The Nichol’s case is one of many cases all over Australia where a suicide note, draft will, unexecuted will and electronic wills, such as a Facebook status or Tweet on twitter, have been valid wills. Without the intent, the application for the informal will to be validated won’t proceed.

The judge held[1] that four elements constituted the text being a valid will.

  1. Was there a document?
  2. If so, did the document purport to reflect testamentary intentions?
  3. When the document was created, did the deceased demonstrate that it was his intention that the document operate as his will?
  4. Did the deceased have testamentary capacity?

 

[1] [2017] QSC 220.

Having a valid will is the only reliable way to ensure that your estate goes to family or friends of your choice after you pass away. A valid up-to-date will can help reduce stress for your family and friends, limit the costs to administer your estate and lessen the possibility of disputes over your possessions.

Please call Gold Coast Lawyers at OMB Solicitors to plan your estate.

Protecting My Interests in Property

Protecting My Interests in Property

By | Articles, Property Law

A Caveat is a legal document registered on the Title of a property which generally prevents dealings with that property without the lodger’s consent. Once registered on Title, it acts as a warning or formal notice to advise the public that someone (the Lodger) has an interest in the land or property.

The most common query regarding a Caveat is can it be lodged to protect the recovery of the debt? The general answer is no. A Caveat can only be lodged when there is a “caveatable interest” and this generally means an equitable or legal interest in the land or a right, power, or privilege over the land which is the basis of the Caveat. There are a number of examples of this including an equitable mortgage, constructive trust or agreement which provides that a property is charged or encumbered with the repayment of a loan. These are just some of the examples that may constitute a caveatable interest; however, it is important to note that it is more than a mere claim for damages.

The Caveat, however, is a very powerful tool which prevents the party from dealing with their property and may heavily impact the owner of that property by preventing them from selling or mortgaging their property. As a result there is substantial liability which may be imposed on a person who lodges or continues with the caveat without reasonable grounds. In the event that another party suffers loss or damage as a result of that lodgement the lodger of the caveat may be liable for those damages or loss.

Any party wanting to lodge a Caveat should seek specialist legal advice and it should bear in mind that all times the potential liability that may attach if the grounds for lodging that Caveat are insufficient and the caveat causes loss or damage. The general rule for a caveat is that it will automatically lapse after a three-month period unless proceedings to support that Caveat are commenced. There are certain types of Caveat that will be non-lapsing however.

When Mediation Fails

When Mediation Fails and an Agreement Cannot be Reached

By | Articles, Family Law

When alternative dispute resolution processes do not resolve the property or parenting issues in dispute with your ex-partner (taking into account that these processes require the co-operation of your ex-partner) you will need the assistance of the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court process to resolve your matter.

Are there time limits?

Unless you bring proceedings in the Family Court of Federal Circuit Court for a property settlement or spouse maintenance within 1 year from the date of your divorce being finalised, you lose the right to bring such proceedings without leave of the Court (which is not readily given).

What Happens During the Court Process

The process in both the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia follow the basic procedures below, with some minor variations, namely:

  1. An Initiating Application and an Affidavit by you in Support of the Application and a Financial Statement if a property matter, or a Notice of Risk if a parenting matter, is filed in the Court and served on the other party. A Court filing fee is payable;
  2. The other party must file and serve a Response, Affidavit and Financial Statement (or Notice of Risk) within fourteen (14) days of the first Court return date;
  3. The matter comes before the Court for the first time for a case assessment conference (Family Court) or for a “first return date” (Federal Circuit Court) and interim hearing if necessary (both Courts);
  4. The Court will make any orders by consent on the first return date, and will normally order that the parties attend a conciliation conference or a private mediation (for property matters) or that a Family Report be prepared and/or an Independent Children’s Lawyer (“ICL”) be appointed for the children (parenting matters);
  5. If the matter does not resolve at the conciliation conference or private mediation (property matters) or in line with the recommendations of the Family Report Writer and/or ICL (children’s matters), the matter is returned to Court for trial directions;
  6. The matter is prepared for a hearing, and a barrister is appointed to prepare for attend the hearing.
  7. The matter is heard by a Judge for a final decision.
  8. The Judge will hand down his or her decision, and this decision can only be appealed on certain grounds within twenty eight (28) days.

If there are any urgent matters which need to be determined by the Court prior to a final hearing, either party can bring an interim or urgent application in which case the matter will be dealt with depending on the urgency of the matter.

On the return date of an interim or urgent application, the Court will make a determination of the matter on an urgent basis and the matter is determined on the affidavit material filed and the submissions of both parties.  Normally oral evidence is not given at such a hearing. Affidavits must not be more than ten (10) pages in length, and the number of exhibits which can be attached is limited.

Important Considerations

During the Court proceedings, it is important to remember that:

  • Your personal appearance is required on all Court dates, including mentions and callovers, unless excused by the Judge beforehand;
  • You will need our assistance to prepared affidavit material (which may need to be settled by counsel) and this can be time consuming and costly;
  • Barristers will be required to be engaged for all defended interim hearings and for the final hearing of the matter. Whilst solicitors will generally appear on mentions, callovers, and where consent orders are being made, solicitors are not generally experts in Court advocacy and will engage counsel to provide the best possible representation of you and presentation of your case at defended and final hearings, particularly where cross-examination is required.
  • Every Court appearance carries with it an opportunity to resolve the matter or particular issues in dispute by consent with the other party, and therefore the most should be made of these opportunities.
  • Judges in the family court arena have a very wide discretion when it comes to making property adjustment orders, and this wide discretion gives limited rights to appeal a seemingly unfavourable decision towards a party.
Wills – The Unavoidable Topic

Wills – The Unavoidable Topic

By | Articles, Wills and Estates

It’s human nature to refuse to accept the obvious – nothing is more certain than death and taxes. Making a Will isn’t morbid – it is the only way to protect hard earned assets.

Most people wouldn’t leave their car door open with a wallet displayed on the front seat. Few people leave their homes open so thieves can help themselves but many people leave their estate wide open to claims. A valid will ensures assets go to those who are near and dear. The absence of a Will leaves the estate open to claims from all and sundry and this includes the taxation office.

There is no legal obligation to make a will, but it is the smart option. Without a Will, assets can be distributed by anyone to anyone. When people die without leaving a will, assets are distributed according to a legal formula.

The process applies to financial assets, property, and may determine the guardian of children under 18 years of age. Avoid creating ongoing hassles and legal wrangles by preparing an estate plan.  This usually means writing a straightforward will and an enduring power of attorney.

Enduring power of attorney offers protection if an accident or a medical condition prevents people handling their own affairs. An executor is appointed to ensure a will is followed to the letter. Power of attorney allows a trusted person to deal with financial and legal affairs of another.

A will can be relatively straightforward or a complex legal document incorporating protective clauses and tax effective structures such as testamentary discretionary trusts (TDTs). TDT’s are not for everyone, but can be very advantageous.

TDT’s may offer tax advantages and protect assets involved in Family Law Court proceeses or creditors threatening bankruptcy.

TDT’s also protect spendthrift beneficiaries from themselves and ensure ongoing care for children, grandchildren and mentally disabled beneficiaries.

Legal advice is recommended when making a will. It is essential to cover all likely eventualities, choose an executor to administer the estate; appoint the guardians of children, list assets and liabilities (individual, jointly owned or placed in a trust), name beneficiaries, show how assets should be distributed and make provisions for the future of any children.

Recent legislation allows people to place large proportions of their wealth into superannuation.

Superannuation is not always distributed according to a person’s will because the asset is controlled by the trustee of the superannuation fund.  This is not usually the executor of the estate.

The superannuation fund trustee may decide who receives the proceeds of the fund.  This is an important estate planning issue.

Gold Coast Lawyers at OMB Solicitors has almost 40 years estate planning experience. For further information contact Simon Bennett on 07 5555 0000.

This article was featured in Label Magazine, by Simon Bennett

Signing a Power of Attorney

Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle

By | Articles, Wills and Estates

Volcanic ash created an international debacle as people were stranded far from home; it highlights the need for a back up plan

Life does not always go to plan but most people are unprepared for the unexpected according to Gold Coast solicitor Simon Bennett. Simon says responsible people prepare for all eventualities. “Life is unpredictable, we must hope for the best and be prepared for the worst,” he says.

“People can sometimes become incapacitated due to a so-called act of god like the volcanic ash eruption or as the result of an accident or illness. It is essential to have a plan of action in place to avoid compounding the problem. A power of attorney ensures a trusted family member, friend or professional person is able to take over financial and health affairs,” Simon says.

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows any person aged 18 years or over to nominate another to deal with financial, health and any other situations if they are not capable of dealing with these matters themselves. An enduring power of attorney continues if the loss of capacity is ongoing. It allows the person with the enduring power of attorney to make decisions on behalf of another.

Simon says government officials take over when people who are no longer capable of dealing with their own affairs have failed to arrange a power of attorney. “It would be terrible to rely on state officials.

“These people have no idea of what an incapacitated person would want or expect. The individual becomes a faceless subject of the State. A power of attorney ensures individuals don’t get lost in the shuffle. OMB Solicitors experienced legal team can help everyone plan for the unexpected,” he says.

Do not get lost in the shuffle

This article was featured in Label Magazine, by Simon Bennett

Putting a Price On Pain & Suffering

Putting a Price On Pain & Suffering

By | Articles, Insurance

Recent reform to awards for pain and suffering for those who have suffered a workplace injury brings the Workers Compensation & Rehabilitation Act into line with the damages available under the Civil Liability Act for motor vehicle and other accidents, thereby creating a more uniform compensation scheme in Queensland.

Serious injury invariably leads to loss of income and added expenses for the claimant. The cost of medical treatment coupled with an inability to work during rehabilitation is a source of serious financial strain for many Australian families. A successful claim for damages will help offset this loss.

Unless the claimant is a minor, the right to claim will generally expire three years after the accident occurred, or after the claimant became aware their injuries were caused by an accident. Thus, it is vital that claims are initiated in a timely manner.

Personal injury claims only succeed if another person (such as your employer or other vehicle driver) owed a duty to the claimant, and breached that duty through negligent action or inaction. A causative link to the injuries must also be demonstrated.

Negligence by the claimant may reduce or eliminate the compensation. Claimants must avoid obvious risks and take care for their own safety.

Awards for pain and suffering (general damages) are based on medical opinion which determines the severity of the injury suffered and any resultant long term impairment. For injuries sustained from 1 July 2010 onwards, the Workers Compensation & Rehabilitation Regulations Injury Scale Value tables sets out the awards payable.

However, there is more to a personal injuries claim than simply attempting to quantify the pain and loss of enjoyment of life suffered. Additional types of awards may be made to successful claimants:

  • past economic loss (and past superannuation);
  • estimated future economic loss (and future superannuation);
  • past hospital/medical/rehabilitation costs and related out of pocket expenses;
  • predicted future rehabilitative expenses and out-of-pocket expenses; and
  • care provided, in the past and/or future, by family and friends, or employed carers and other service providers.

These awards aim to put the claimant back in the position they would be in had the negligence and resultant injury not occurred. This can return some kind of financial normalcy to the lives of those affected by serious injury.

 

 

Ladies Protect Your Assets

Ladies Protect Your Assets

By | Articles, Family Law

Women who have gone through a separation or divorce will be the first to tell you that the process is daunting, expensive, lengthy and exhausting. You work hard, build your wealth, meet “Mr Right” and fall head over heels into a relationship, only to realise some years later that “Mr Right” was not all you expected. Suddenly, the joyride comes to an abrupt stop as your relationship is reduced to paperwork and numbers.

It is a harsh reality when you are told by your solicitor that when it comes to your property matters, it does not matter that he cheated on you, and that it does not necessarily matter that he did not bring the same amount of wealth into the relationship or contribute as much as you did financially… the reality is, he potentially has a claim to your assets, even those you owned prior to your relationship. You can fight it in Court and potentially win, but in most cases; it will cost you more than it’s worth, both financially and emotionally.

So what do you do? At the risk of saying the words that are still considered by many as taboo, you protect your assets, and you get him to sign a Binding Financial Agreement, or what is more commonly referred to as a Pre-nuptial Agreement.

Sure, it’s easier said than done, after all, how do you ask the man you love to sign a document that in short says, “in case we don’t work out, I keep my things, and you can’t touch them”. It implies you do not trust the relationship will work and that you do not trust him… at least that is how a lot of people see it. What you are really saying is, “I have worked hard to build my wealth. If things were to get ugly between us, promise me you won’t try to take away what I have worked so hard on my own to build.”

A Binding Financial Agreement will protect the assets you have accumulated prior to moving in with or marrying your partner. At the same time, it will allow you to decide together, in advance, and whilst you both have each other’s best interests in mind, what you think is fair and what you will do with your property in the event you separate.

You can do this and be proactive, or alternatively, take a reactive approach and try and sort through the mess when both of you are broken hearted and potentially upset at one another. Spend a little now to secure your interests, or spend a lot later in a bitter fight to the end, where potentially, no one wins.

Binding Financial Agreements can be entered into prior to or once a couple are living together; and at any time prior to or during a marriage. If you have separated, and you are concerned about your rights, we can also assist you. Contact our Gold Coast Family Law Solicitor on 07 5555 0000.

This article was featured in Label Magazine, by Simon Bennett

Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After

By | Articles, Family Law

The urban myth lives on despite the reality of separation, divorce and bitter wrangles.

An ever increasing number of marriages fail to fulfil the happily ever after expectations most people dream of. Gold Coast lawyer Simon Bennett says it is wise to set romance aside and enter into marriage with a degree of protection.

“Few people would enter a business partnership without an agreement that protects against the unforeseen; the same rules should apply to marriage. It’s not very romantic but it does go someway to avoiding the hassles that can result from a relationship breakdown,” Simon says.

“Approaching a relationship breakdown is difficult when emotions are running high and most people are focused on anger, resentment and revenge. Both parties should take a commonsense approach and settle for a fair, equitable and just resolution. It is easier to do this when there is a cohabitation agreement in place,” he says. When a marriage or relationship breaks down there are a number of areas that must be resolved. These usually include property settlement, financial maintenance and custody of children.

Simon says that during a divorce, property settlement involves the division of matrimonial property, including all assets and liabilities including superannuation. “Division of property or deciding how much time is to be spent with children shouldn’t be about greed or point scoring. Family Law can far too often become the enemy rather than the means of resolving disputes, rectifying relationships and allowing parties to move forward,” he says. “The custody of children can be very complicated. Specific issues may include parental responsibilities such as day to day decision making, the time each parent spends with the child or children and child maintenance. Financial maintenance is generally controlled by the Child Support Agency,” he says.

“Advice should be sought from an experienced divorce solicitor. This ensures both parties are fully aware of their positions. The initial discussion should outline a plan for reasonably resolution. The next step generally involves another meeting with the parties involved and their representatives.

“When issues are resolved, agreements can be entered into. Where children are involved Family Court Consent Orders can be obtained. If agreements can’t be reached further legal advice is recommended,” he says.

This article was featured in Label Magazine, by Simon Bennett

Courts, Cost & Considerations

Courts, Cost & Considerations

By | Articles, Ligitation

An experienced solicitor offers viable solutions in the face of legal action.

Leading Gold Coast lawyer Simon Bennett says courts are often described as casinos for the rich. “Most people think only large companies and wealthy individuals can afford the cost of litigation and there is some truth in this,” he says. “When civil and business matters can only be resolved by legal action or it is necessary to defend against proceedings there are ways to minimise costs.

“It is essential to remove emotions from the equation. Litigation is often driven by feelings about justice or rights and wrongs. Legal action should only be taken after all the facts and the likely results are established. Few can afford the expense of proving a point in court.

“It is important to choose a specialist solicitor who is experienced and competent. Very few lawyers have experience in running complex litigation in the superior courts. An inexperienced solicitor may make costly tactical errors. Sound representation comes through experience, knowledge of court procedure, and rules of evidence. Poorly drafted court documents are often challenged or redone – this all adds to the cost.

“People who plan legal action should ask their solicitor detailed questions. This will show whether the solicitor has the necessary qualifications and experience. Superior court actions involve a barrister’s fee. The choice of barrister is crucial.

“Errors in the preparation and presentation of a case are costly and may result in a negative outcome. Ensure money is spent wisely by engaging a solicitor who has intimate knowledge of and a good relationship with the bar, and I don’t mean the local pub,” he says.

Simon says the best way of reducing legal costs is to work with a solicitor to establish a reasonable settlement. “Provide the solicitor with as much information as possible as soon as possible,” he says.

“A settlement that is commercially acceptable in the light of risks and costs is a positive result. If a settlement can’t be reached then at least the solicitor has the full picture and the opportunity to gain the tactical advantage,” he says.

viable solutions in the face of legal action

This article was featured in Label Magazine, by Simon Bennett

Know Where to Stand in Body Corporate Levies Change

Know Where to Stand

By | Articles, Body Corporate

Are you ready for your Body Corporate Levies to change again?

The calculation of who pays what levies in a body corporate has been contentious for some time. The major reason for this is that the Legislation has changed a number of times.

It all started in 2003 when the then Labor Queensland Government introduced changes to the Legislation to make it clear that levies should be equal except where it was just and equitable for them not to be equal. This was interpreted by the Court of Appeal in 2004 to mean that everyone should pay the same amount of levies; unless it can be demonstrated that one unit in a body corporate has the effect of increasing the costs of running the body corporate.

An example of this may be where a penthouse apartment has its own lift and the body corporate is responsible for monitoring the lift.

After the Court of Appeal decision the legal system was flooded with bodies corporate responding to applications. The old Commercial and Consumer Tribunal saw the majority of these cases and for a period towards the end of 2009 it appeared that the body corporate section of the Tribunal did nothing else other than consider applications to make the calculation of levies equal.

Obviously, when some unit owners have their levies reduced some must have theirs increased and this caused some concern and ultimately forced the then Labor Government in 2011 to amend the Legislation again to reverse the previous charges. On 14 September 2012 the new LNP Queensland Government introduced a Bill into Parliament that will effectively require that the calculation of levies be equal once again. That Bill has now been sent to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee which is required to report back to Parliament by 22 November 2012.

Given the level of control that the LNP has over the Queensland Parliament it would seem a foregone conclusion that once the Committee reports back to Parliament the Bill will become law sometime towards the end of this year or early 2013.

Gold Coast Lawyers at OMB Solicitors we have an expert Body Corporate Team that has been involved with the calculation of levies right from the start.

If you are currently faced with an Application to amend the way your levies are calculated, or your body corporate has previously had the calculation of its levies adjusted, we would be pleased to meet with you to discuss the effect of the proposed Bill and how we may assist you when it becomes Law.

Body Corporate Feuds

Body Corporate Feuds

By | Articles, Body Corporate

Body corporate disputes are nothing new but Juliette Nairn from OMB Solicitors has the ability to steer you through what can be a minefield of litigation.

Are you frustrated by your Body Corporate neighbour’s failing to pay their contributions, leaving you to pick up the difference? The good news is you can take steps to recover your money. The Court of Appeal of Queensland recently made a landmark decision in the area of Body Corporate Law regarding the ability of bodies corporate to recover contributions, penalty interest and all reasonable recovery costs from a lot owner who fails to pay their contributions on time.

The decision was made with respect to a Body Corporate feud which began in 2011 relating to a prestigious unit in Surfers Paradise worth over $1m. The unpaid amount in question was around $5,500 and the owners of the lot claimed they had no capacity to pay their debts, despite owning several other units in Surfers Paradise of similar value. This resulted in the remaining lot owners having to cover the shortfall in contributions to cover the daily expenditure of the body corporate.

When this matter was brought before the Queensland Court of Appeal, Gold Coast Lawyers at OMB Solicitors as legal representatives for the body corporate, successfully argued that if a single lot owner fails to pay their body corporate levies, this places an unfair burden on the other lot owners who have always abided by their responsibilities. As the saying goes, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel.

In the lead up to this matter being brought before the Court of Appeal, over $400,000 in recovery costs were incurred due to the unreasonable pursuit of litigation through five different Courts over a number of years. The Body Corporate for The Wave has been forced to expend these costs as part of the lengthy proceedings, which resulted in each lot owner being forced to make further contributions to the body corporate administration fund. These costs were incurred as a result of the non-contributing lot owners continually pursuing the matter to a higher Court, despite them being unsuccessful at all five levels of the Court proceedings.

This ever-ballooning debt owed to the Body Corporate, and essentially the remaining contributing owners, resulted in the bank repossessing the property in mid-2013. It should be noted that the bank, Westpac, failed to take steps to protect its interest throughout
the court proceedings. The Court agreed that ultimately it is the contributing lot owners who are meeting their share of the expenditures and who are disadvantaged by the non-payment of one lot owner. This cannot be, and was not, the intention of the legislation protecting everyday owners within a body corporate. The body corporate’s success in this matter ultimately resulted in a Court order that Westpac pay the body corporate debt including all contributions, interest and recovery costs.

The Court of Appeal is sending a very clear message to lot owners and mortgagees through this judgment to ensure they look carefully at non-payment of body corporate contributions. OMB Solicitors has handled over 2,000 body corporate levy recovery proceedings in the past five years, and the average costs incurred in recovering contributions from defaulting lot owners is less than $5,000. These types of matters also usually resolve with full payment being made to the body corporate within a period of about 3 months. However, this case highlights a rare example of just how expensive and time consuming body corporate matters can become if expert legal advice is not sought in the early stages of such matters to resolve them quickly.

If your body corporate requires expert legal advice on this type of matter, or any other Body Corporate matters, consider contacting the Body Corporate team at OMB Solicitors on 07 5555 0000.

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