by Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B
In 1987 Igor and Nina Petrov purchased a home near Woollongong in New South Wales, and lived there for 19 years. Because they were in business at that time, and fearing potential trade creditors’ claims on their assets, Petrovs kept the property out of their own names by buying it in their daughter Olga’s name – apparently on legal advice.
Petrovs would later fraudulently claim and receive pension benefits by not declaring to Social Security their equitable ownership of this residence. Nevertheless more recently they did consult another solicitor, Dino Alfrizzo, about how best to protect their equity in the home.
Last year a District Court ruled on a $350,000 damages suit Petrovs brought against that solicitor.
Petrovs went to Alfrizzo after Olga and another daughter, Nadia, each began experiencing matrimonial and financial difficulties. With their parents’ consent, Olga and Nadia had already jointly borrowed $200,000 from a finance company. This loan was secured by a mortgage over the home. Petrovs now wanted their interest in the home legally quarantined against further borrowings by either Olga or Nadia.
The judge’s decision was not as favourable as Petrovs expected although he took into account that they were elderly folk with medical problems, English was not their first language, they were relatively unsophisticated and were “beset” with their daughters’ difficulties. Although they were intelligent, he found Petrovs were obviously not “sophisticated individuals familiar with the nuances of legal procedures.”
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