Asset protection in a bust up – Zaki Ameer

Last year there were almost 50,000 divorces granted in Australia, sadly making it one of the most common issues Australian families must deal with.  That being the case, how do you protect your assets during a break-up.  Zakie Ameer speaks from experience.
Kevin:  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people talk about what happens when they have a divorce, especially those people who maybe get to later in life and they build a lot of equity in their maybe principal place of residence. They might even have a property portfolio.
I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but last year alone, there were 50,000 divorces granted in Australia. That’s roughly about 1000 every week, sadly making it one of the most common issues for Australian families that they must deal with.
Zaki Ameer, who is a real estate expert and founder of Dream Design Property, joins me on the line.
Zaki, this is something I guess people can’t really be prepared for, but maybe they should be. What’s your view on that?
Zaki:  Kevin, this is also from my own personal experience. Obviously, nobody gets married for a divorce. That’s the first reason. And then the other part is about de facto relationships, which are becoming more and more common, that maybe not as many people are getting married.
So it’s also important to know that family law rules apply if you’re in a de facto relationship. What that means is if two people are in a relationship, living together in the same household for more than two years, or immediately if your relationship is registered with Births, Deaths and Marriages, it would be very similar to getting married. That’s also an important part to know. It’s not only applicable to marriages.
Kevin:  Yes. Thank you for sharing that with us. I wasn’t going to necessarily raise that you’re speaking from personal experience, but I guess you carry into this topic a lot of that experience yourself that you can actually share some of the wisdom with us. What are some of the things that we should be aware of if we’re going into a breakup like this?
Zaki:  I think we need to just be prepared. As much as it’s tough to be aware that your relationship may break down or may not break down, we don’t want to be naïve. Some do suggest doing a prenuptial agreement, which is one way to avoid some of it, so that you are very clear. It’s like going into a business relationship or a partnership, so you’re aware of where you stand if the relationship does break down.
But I have to say that it’s not a very easy thing, it’s not an easy topic to discuss, because you’re emotionally in love and a prenuptial agreement is very contractual. Even if you don’t do that, I guess it’s just being self-aware that that may happen. And if it does happen, one of the things you want to make sure is that you want to be as professional as you can at a very emotional time.
Kevin:  Because at a time like this, I imagine it’s a matter of wanting to get even too, and probably the only thing you can do – two things, I guess. Maybe the kids and any assets that you might have.
Zaki:  Correct. You also want to be aware that even if it’s your husband or your wife who is staying at home and looking after the kids, or even if you don’t have kids, your husband or wife was supporting you in other ways, whether it’s taking care of the household, making sure the house is clean, making sure you have food on the table.
Many think “Yes, well, I bought these properties and I’m the one who is working in a job and it was my money, so I’m entitled to everything.” That’s actually not true, and I agree to that because obviously, your partner would have supported you in some sort of way to be able to accumulate these assets, so he or she would be getting a fair share of that.
Being aware of that and being okay with it rather than getting emotional and arguing about it is one way to look at it.
Kevin:  Yes. Is it possible during a time like this to really step back and try and differentiate between emotions and economics, Zaki?
Zaki:  I remember a recent interview when we’re making investment decisions. If you could do the same things with this, I think it would be I guess less painful. The same way you’re going to be buying an investment property, I always say do your best to look at it logically as opposed to emotionally. You’ll be much more successful in building a property portfolio.
So in the same manner, I think this is where you probably seek help, and the help in my opinion needs to come from a professional and someone you trust. It may be a family member. Unfortunately, that might not always be the best case because your family might be on your side and might be very emotional about it.
Seeking help from a lawyer. And I also have to warn with that when you do get legal advice you do want to go for a recommended solicitor from someone you trust who has an area of expertise in family law, because in divorce or even de facto breakups, nobody wins. It’s a lose-lose situation anyway. You just have to make sure that the person giving this advice has your best interest, and you want to avoid having to go to court.
My take on that is be professional about it, take your lawyer’s advice, and sometimes it’s okay to give up a bit more just to avoid the heartache of spending the next few years in the family courthouse looking at your partner.
Kevin:  Yes. Easy to say, but you do actually have to look at it very professionally and in a businesslike manner, because I think if you don’t make sure that the deal is more favorable to the other person, then there’s a possibility – and I’ve actually heard this happen – where they can come back and dispute any settlement, even years down the track.
Zaki:  I agree. Given I unfortunately had to go through this, it’s probably one of the most personal investigating matter in the sense that anything can be questioned. I’m not saying that people have intentions of wrongdoing, and that’s why you want to settle this matter very quickly, because some people have this assumption that just because I have a single bank account and it’s in my name, that money or those finances belong to me.
That may not be the case under family law, because like I mentioned before, if your partner assisted in some way of gaining those finances, even if it’s a bank account that’s in your name, he or she may be entitled to some of that money. So you don’t want to really be going through that exercise. You want to do your best to speak to someone professional who’s on your side, and settle that matter as fast as you can.
Kevin:  Yes. I guess to sum up, no one really ever goes into a relationship expecting that it’s going to turn sour, but you need to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
Zaki, that’s probably sufficient. I appreciate you giving us your time today and sharing your personal experience with us, and I’m sure that a lot of people will have gained some good knowledge out of this. Thank you very much for your time, Zaki.
Zaki:  Thank you, Kevin.

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