George and Maria Aronis married in 1946 on the island of Kythera in Greece. They had a daughter Matty and a son Peter, both born on the island.

Following their immigration to Australia, George purchased a corner store with an attached residence in Camp Hill in 1959 where he, Maria and Matty worked when she was not at school.

Succession to wealth created by migrant families by following generations requires effective estate planningBy the early 1970s – when George and Maria stopped working – their combined efforts contributed to a pool of income producing assets including three local fish & chip outlets, several rental properties and a commercial building in Vulture Street, West End.

Peter and Matty had full time jobs but still worked in the businesses when after hours and on weekends.

In the mid-70s, Peter retired from his job in the Qld Police Force and devoted his energies to running the business of the existing rental properties and those that the parents continued to acquire.

George and Maria made mutual wills in January 1984 each appointing the other executor and leaving their entire estate to the other, or if the other predeceased them, to Matty and Peter in equal shares.

In July 1991, Maria made another will appointing Peter and his wife Theodora as executors and giving her entire estate to them.

George died in 1993 and following Peter’s death in 2015, relations between his widow Theodora and his mother and sister soured in a dispute as to their respective entitlements.

Theodora filed a claim in December 2015 contending Peter was the beneficial owner of five properties pursuant to an understanding that had been reached in 1979 and that all of the income generated by those properties after that time was also Peter’s property or that of his estate.

The terms of the understanding were – she alleged – that Peter became the equitable owner of the properties and was responsible for their management. The arrangement required him to take responsibility for all of George and Maria’s expenses: rates, utilities, private health costs, car expenses and a monthly allowance for living costs.

Theodora claimed Peter had – for more than 30 years and in reliance upon the promises – acted to his detriment by: managing the properties for no remuneration; cleaning and maintaining the properties; and paying George and Maria’s private expenses.

Maria died shortly after the claim was filed, but not before swearing an affidavit stating the alleged conversations had not occurred and making a further will leaving her whole estate to Matty.

Matty also denied the alleged arrangement and asserted that Paul and Theodora had failed to properly account for the rental income generated by the properties. She pointed to her parents’ 1984 wills that left all assets to Peter and her in equal shares and her own substantial financial contributions, including loan repayments, on several of the properties.

Justice David Jackson rejected Theodora’s claim.

“The plaintiff has not proved on the balance of probabilities that the alleged agreements, common intentions or representations were made or existed,” he ruled.

“The many inconsistent facts make it less likely than not that any of the alleged agreements, common intentions or representations were made or existed”.

He entered judgment on Matty’s counterclaim against Theodora for $211k for wrongly appropriated rents.

Aronis v Aronis [2022] QSC 39 Jackson J, 30 March 2022