Ruling protects barber’s fortune for family
RULING: Carl Charalambous, 25, stands to inherit his grandfather’s millions. Source: The Sunday Mail (Qld)
IN THE first decision of its kind in Australia, a judge has allowed the 2001 will of a man who has severe dementia to be changed for estate and tax planning reasons alone.
John Matsis, 90, who is in a nursing home for dementia sufferers, will leave his grandsons $7.6 million worth of Australian property and 92 Greek properties, estimated to be worth $6.3 million.
The Greek migrant from the island of Rhodes, who came to Australia with his wife Despina in 1944, built up his family fortune from humble beginnings in a small Boundary St, West End, barber shop, the court heard.
His will leaves his $1.4 million West End home, where his grandsons still live with their mother Esther Charalambous, to youngest grandson, university student John Paul, 19.
The remainder of the estate will be equally shared by John Paul and his brothers, Carl Charalambous, 25, an Elders commercial real estate acting director, and Harry, 26, a software company director.
On November 1, Supreme Court Justice Ann Lyons ordered that a statutory codicil be made on behalf of Mr Matsis so that his grandsons’ inheritance would be held in three testamentary trusts.
The court heard that instead of receiving their inheritance as outright gifts, the trusts would protect the beneficiaries’ future businesses from exposure to any potential liability.
Justice Lyons accepted the submission from barrister Richard Williams that inclusion of the testamentary trusts was, or “may be”, a codicil that Mr Matsis, who is “gravely ill”, would make if he had capacity.
“This is the first time in Australia a judge has given effect to a statutory will, or codicil, for reasons of tax and asset protection,” said Brisbane wills and estates lawyer Bryan Mitchell, who was not involved in the case.
“This is a very surprising outcome.”
Mr Matsis’s properties include two West End restaurants, a shopping centre, shops and an office at Sandgate, a laundromat and office in Paddington, a Gold Coast unit and West End home.
Mr Matsis’s adopted daughter Esther Charalambous, who owns a one-third share of some of the Australian properties, is not a beneficiary of his will.
Mr Matsis, whose wife died in 2007, had wanted the wealth to be kept within the family, the court heard.
“It was clear to me that he took significant pride from the fact that he was the founder of the family fortune, that the benefit of his hard work would pass through the generations,” his solicitor David Bowles told the court. A small business award Mr Matsis received from former Prime Minister Robert Menzies took pride of place in his home, the court heard.