What to Do When Someone Dies Without a WillWhat to Do When Someone Dies Without a Will

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What to Do When Someone Dies Without a Will

Hello, my name is Kerry. Last year my mother died suddenly. When we went through her papers, we discovered she didn't have a will. My mother had been married to another man before she met my father and I had a couple of step brothers. Unfortunately, they turned up on our doorstep and started to demand that we hand over my mother's life savings to them and their family. I contacted a lawyer who specialises in probate law. She talked me through my case and explained how we would defend it in court. Thankfully, the matter was resolved to my satisfaction and I could start to grieve for my mother. I decided to start this blog to help others who have a contested will on their hands.

Losing Your Castle: What To Do If Your Property Is Resumed

The iconic movie "The Castle" portrays the issue of land resumption as a story where a little Aussie battler fights against the establishment and wins.  However, recent high-profile cases highlight that real-life land acquisitions are far more complex. The north-west rail link in Sydney has resulted in over 1000 people receiving acquisition notices and 30 Brisbane residents will have their houses resumed in order to widen a motorway. Both cases have created considerable confusion and distress for property owners.

When purchasing property there are steps you should take in order to determine if there is likelihood of future land resumption. If your property does become part of a land acquisition program, it is important to assert your legal rights.

Compulsory Land Acquisition

As governments undertake infrastructure projects such as building roads, airports or hospitals, they have the right to impose compulsory land resumption on property owners. This may occur at a federal, state or local level. Each state and territory has its own variations on these laws.

Once you have been given a Notice of Intention to Resume, you do have the right to object; however, usually residents have very little success as land acquisition decisions are made at high government levels. Most legal processes involve landowners fighting for fairer compensation.

Buyer Beware

When you purchase a property, it is important to do thorough searches. Engage an experienced property lawyer to help you with documentation checks.

  • A title search must be conducted. It will include plans and deeds of ownership. Check that the plans match the fence line of the property exactly. If not, you need to have the land surveyed. If this is an older property, boundaries may have changed without being recorded. Check that there are no easements or other structures on the plans that do not presently appear on the property. In the case of future compulsory resumption of your property, accurate boundaries may be vital to your cause.
  • A property search allows you to check if there are plans to build a road  on a particular piece of land. This can be done through the Department of Transport in your state or territory. Also check local council draft zoning plans for the area.
  • Use the Internet to check for any past news stories about land acquisitions or potential future developments. This is particularly important if your potential purchase is near a freeway, airport, shopping centre or other structure that may need to expand in the future.
  • Speak to a neighbour who has lived there for a number of years. He or she may be able to tell you if any construction projects are being implemented. 

Your Rights

If the government does decide to resume your land, you cannot refuse simply by saying or doing nothing. You have a limited amount of time in which to respond, either by officially objecting or accepting compensation. There are two professionals that you should engage once a Notice of Intention to Resume has been given.

Valuers: A property valuer will be able to ascertain the current market value of your property. Depending on the nature of your property, business valuers and agribusiness valuers may also be necessary. This data is important as valuations provided by the government may be significantly underestimated.

Property lawyer: A professional property lawyer will be able to assist if you choose to object. In situations where residents work as a group or there is a native title claim, success has been achieved.

If you accept the proposal, your lawyer will be able to help you maximise your payout by ensuring that you are given a fair market price and extra compensation, known as solatium, for the inconvenience caused. If there are disagreements about the valuation of the property, an experienced lawyer will be able to help you resolve problems through negotiation. Your case can be taken to the Supreme Court, if necessary. A good property lawyer can also ensure that your valuation and legal costs are paid by the government as part of the compensation package. 

In most cases, property resumption is a difficult process for residents. By engaging highly-skilled professionals, like David Gibbs & Associates, you will be able to streamline the process and ensure the best possible financial outcomes.