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Patrick H.
Patrick H., Lawyer
Category: Australia Law
Satisfied Customers: 5422
Experience:  Dip Law LPAB - Sydney based lawyer
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I have a legal question/problem:In 1996 my great-grandfather

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I have a legal question/problem:
In 1996 my great-grandfather died, leaving his entire estate to us children. There were no other beneficiaries listed besides us three. My mother was made executor, in the will it states she may invest however she sees fit and is indemnified from any losses incurred.
The inheritance was to be held in trust until we each turned 25. Last December, I found the will by chance. I was 28. I have never been made aware of this nor have my brothers. I was asked not to tell my brothers but I told one brother, the other brother, they feel, is irresponsible with his money. They cited not wanting us to grow up feeling entitled as justification for why we weren't told. Further, they said they had always planned to help us out when it came time to wanting to purchase a property.
I have indicated strong interest in investing into a property since aged 23, sending numerous property advertisements to my parents over the years. Upward of 15 times in total. I used to scan the newspapers from a young age discussing properties so my parents are very much aware I have a strong interest. i also had discussions with my parents from early teens onwards about the estate, as my grandfather cut contact. We were always led to believe my mother inherited the estate.
To date, I have inherited one ring, the wedding band of his late wife. I was not told about the inheritance, it was given to me as I asked if I could have it. My mother resized the ring and kept the excess gold in 18 carat.
There was a property as part of the estate, which was sold, something that I expressed strong objection to, however I was still a minor at the time. It was being rented and my parents didn't want to have to continue dealing with it. The property values have increased and the house would now be worth $500k if it were to be sold today.
I asked for full accounts last December, and again verbally in February, again via email last week, and again verbally over the phone. I have not received any indication that it would be done or was in the process of being organised. I am being ignored in terms of being provided any indication I will be provided with this. I have also asked to know the value of the estate originally based on 1/3 of the total and the value of the estate now.
My mother has told me that the money was invested into my father's brother's property development which suffered large setbacks. My parents put the trust money in with their own personal money. I was told of the investment about 10 years ago, which was uncharacteristic of my parents as they don't involve me in their affairs and refuse to discuss things with me, my father took me for coffee and tried to explain the investment and how the returns on investment worked. The scheme was confusing and it was unclear to me as well as himself as I remember him struggling to explain how the returns would work and how this was a good investment. He said at the time he didn't quite understand it.
My father has a share portfolio and is successful to some extent and studied Economics so for him to not understand how the investment worked, is indicative that it was unclear. At the time, I was not aware of being a beneficiary or that this was money I was to inherit being put in with their money but I take this situation to be his round about way of getting my input without telling me it's my money being invested.
My parents are ignoring my requests and I have been informal but clear on what I am looking for, and cordial. I am now reaching a point where I feel I need to write a letter and ask specific questions / seek certain things however I'm finding it hard to understand what i can ask for, and what i should be putting in this letter to cover myself in the event they claim I am lying about not knowing. I don't feel they have acted in the interests of the beneficiaries given they have imposed their own personal beliefs as to why they feel they should remain in control and not disclose the existence of this, despite all 3 children being over aged 25 now. Further, they have invested into a high risk investment which is not a diverse investment, was a huge risk in that its a redevelopment of a heritage listed hospital into retirement units that are being sold as shells to be fit out by purchasers. They have also put money with their own money. I don't believe any financial adviser would have advised that this was a sound investment, and to put an entire or close to and entire estate into a relative's entrepreneurial investment, rather than diversification into a range of investments.
I understand there's a number of issues here, failure to disclose to a beneficiary, failure to provide any statements as trustee of the investment performance, failure to advise if/when the trust assets/money will be provided. I don't know when legally they should be notifying me of my interest if it's 18 or 25 at the time of when its supposed to be released.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Australia Law
Expert:  Patrick H. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for your inquiry.If your mother was executor and was directed by the will to distribute the money once you and your siblings reached 25 years of age, then that is what she should have done, and remaining silent is a breach of her obligations as executor. Although the will may have permitted her to invest the money as she saw fit, she would still be subject to the basic obligation to invest the money for the benefit of the children and not her own interests, so to the extent she appears to have muddled her money with that of her own or used money to support other family member's businesses, rather than as a bona fide investment, she may have a personal liability for any failed investments of that type.If you cannot get a satisfactory explanation from your mother, who ultimately appears to be the party responsible as executor, then you should consider engaging an experienced probate lawyer with a view to either negotiating a proper distribution of the trust assets in accordance with the will, or applying to the court for orders that such a distribution take place, as based on what you have said you do have a legal right to a distribution.I would strongly suggest you give considerable thought to the potential family friction that can arise out of involving lawyers in a family dispute, and if you do engage a lawyer, make sure you satisfy yourself that they are sufficiently conscious of any concerns you have about maintaining family relations. If you need help locating a suitable lawyer contact the Queensland Law Society as they can refer you to suitable lawyers in your area: trust the above assists.Good luck and please rate my answer.Patrick