Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Full names in wills – do the right thing**

Over the last few days, we have had some difficulties in progressing with the administration of an estate for a client where the deceased will did not set out his full name.

Although it sounds like a very pedantic issue, the courts are reluctant to allow wills to be granted probate unless there is complete certainty around a person’s name.

Some of the issues that need to be considered in this regard include:

1) If there is a nickname that someone uses all the time, this should ideally be mentioned in the will.

2) Ideally, the name in the will should exactly match government records (for example, on the birth certificate or marriage certificate for the will maker, and thus in turn, what the death certificate will state).

3) To the extent there is any inconsistency between government records, this should ideally be explained or clarified in the will itself.

4) If the government records do not match the will and this is known at the time of lodging probate, look to explain the inconsistencies proactively with the court when making the application.

** for the trainspotters the title of the post today is riffed from the late 1980’s and ‘Redhead Kingpin

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Guardianship appointment under wills – another application of The Vibe **

Last week, an adviser (on behalf of a client) questioned how binding the nomination of a guardian under a will for infant children is likely to be.

The simple answer is that in a practical sense our experience is that the nomination of a guardian is almost always followed. Arguably however this experience is nothing more than reliance on the well known legal principle ‘The Vibe’.

The strict legal answer is that the courts retain the final and absolute authority to determine who the guardian of an infant child should be with their only responsibility to determine what is in the best interest of the child.

Obviously, in a situation where both parents have died and there is a nomination of a guardian under their wills, the courts will normally put a significant amount of weight on this nomination. Despite the court’s inherent power, it is somewhat unusual to have a situation where the nomination under the will is not followed.

** for the trainspotters Dennis Denuto and his vibe legal principle need no introduction

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ensuring loans are loans and people are people

Following last week’s post, the case of Berghan & Anor v Berghan [2017] QCA 236 is a stark reminder. As usual, if you would like a copy of the decision please contact me.

Broadly, the factual matrix was as follows:

1) A son had borrowed (either directly or via related entities) a six-digit sum from his parents over an extended period.

2) The total amount lent was by way of instalments on a number of separate occasions.

3) On every occasion, there was a confirmation from the parents that they intended the amount to be a loan.

4) In saying this however, no formal agreement was ever entered into.

5) There was also an extended delay between the point in time at which the loans were made and when the parents ultimately sought recovery of the loans.

In the initial court decision, it was held that despite the reference to the loans, the conduct of the parents was more analogous to a gift, and on this basis, there was no obligation at law (ignoring any moral argument) that the son had to repay the amounts.

While on appeal, the parents were successful in having the court confirm that the amounts were actually loans repayable on demand, the fact that there was a protracted legal case to achieve this outcome is a stark reminder to ensure that comprehensive legal agreements are implemented.

The court focused on the factual matrix to determine whether the transactions had objectively demonstrated that the payments were made by way of an oral loan agreement and were not gifts. Once it was determined that the advances were loans, it was confirmed that at law, in the absence of anything to the contrary, such loans are deeded to be at call and repayable on demand.

Finally, independent legal advice should be obtained by each party to ensure that the prospects of, particularly the borrower, arguing that the arrangements were in fact a gift is unsustainable.

** for the trainspotters the title of the post today is riffed from 1984 and Depeche Mode’s ‘People are People

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ensuring a loan is a loan (or alone with you**) – part 1

Arguably, in relation to any form of loan arrangement, it is fundamentally important that there are documents confirming the exact terms that apply.

Purely from an asset protection perspective, ignoring wider issues such as the commercial arrangements, estate planning and tax, the importance of documenting loan arrangements in writing cannot be underemphasised.

Similarly, it is critical to consider:

1) Regular repayments, even if only nominal, to ensure that the terms of the agreement remain on foot and acknowledged by the parties. In this regard, as profiled elsewhere in these posts, government legislation can automatically cause loans to become unrecoverable and statute barred.

2) Possibly implementing security arrangements in relation to the loan, for example, by way of mortgage or registering an interest under the PPSR.

3) Ensuring that each party to the loan receives independent legal advice. Particularly in relation to arrangements between family members, the failure to ensure each party receives independent legal advice can cause a loan to become unrecoverable on the basis that a court decides that the loan was in fact a gift.

The requirement for independent advice is arguably the most important aspect in family situations, such as parents lending funds to a child and their spouse.

If the child and spouse have a relationship breakdown it is likely that the funds advanced will be argued to be a gift by the estranged spouse, even if a loan agreement has been signed.

If the amount is treated as a gift it will be an asset of the relationship (not the parents as lenders) and thus unrecoverable by the parents.

** for the trainspotters the title of the post today is riffed from the early 1980’s and The Sunnyboys ‘Alone With You’, see them perform live!