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Do you need help with Probate?

Our expert legal team is ready to take your call

Mitchell is the Managing Principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal. He is an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Law (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria). He also deals with areas of Employment Law, Wills & Estate Planning and Probate and can answer all your questions related to probate.

For further information, contact Mitchell on his direct line:


CALL: (03) 8561 3318

Managing Fake Reviews Online

Have you or your business ever received any fake reviews online, or reviews which you believed to be misleading? Alternatively, have you ever thought about publishing your own false reviews online to balance out the negative reviews? As we have moved further into the 21st Century, people are becoming more reliant on what they read online for reviews as opposed to more traditional methods of review such as word of mouth. This can be a big problem if fake reviews are published about you or your business.

What can you do to manage fake reviews?

Under law, there are two primary courses of action that you could undertake if you identify any fake or misleading reviews.

1. Defamation

It may be possible to bring a defamation claim against an individual should they intentionally publish fake reviews about your enterprise. Under the Defamation Act 2005, you may commence a defamation proceeding whether you are an individual or a company, if you employ fewer than 10 employees. If you employ more, then a company will have no cause of action in defamation. Companies should also be aware that they have no defamation recourse against someone who is deceased.

If you believe that a review has been published about you or your business and you believe it to be fake or misleading, then you should engage an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the process of commencing either litigious proceedings or attempting to resolve the dispute without court intervention.

2. Misleading or Deceptive Conduct

If you can prove that fake reviews are intentionally published to mislead, to the detriment of your business, you may have an action under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 for misleading or deceptive conduct. If you believe you have a claim, then contact us and we can help guide you through the process.

Can you be liable for misleading and deceptive conduct regarding the reviews your business publishes?

You or your business may be liable for a misleading and deceptive conduct claim if you either:

  1. Selectively choose which reviews to publish, particularly if this involves removing genuine negative reviews, or
  2. Continually publish your own fake reviews under the guise of "customers".

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ("ACCC") took action against a removalist company in 2011 after they admitted to publishing testimonials which were not completed by genuine customers. This resulted in that business receiving a $6,600.00 fine.

It is therefore clear that the ACCC will step in if there is evidence of either doctoring genuine reviews or publishing reviews or testimonials completed by non-genuine customers.

Visit the ACCC for more information on how to manage online reviews.

How can Sharrock Pitman Legal assist?

Our experienced lawyers will be able to guide you through any process regarding online reviews and publications. It is imperative that you know your rights about protecting your business, should any fake negative reviews be published. Please feel free to give Mitchell Zadow a call on 1300 205 506 or alternatively fill out the form below if you have any queries.

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Written by one of our lawyers

,

.

Benjamin Drinkwater

For further information contact

Mitchell Zadow

Mitchell is the Managing Principal of our law practice.

He is an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Law (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria). He also deals with areas of Employment Law, Wills & Estate Planning and Probate. For further information, contact Mitchell on his direct line (03) 8561 3318.

More on

Commercial Law

However, in this article we will set out the factors that influence how long it will take to obtain a Grant of Probate and to administer an estate in Victoria.

The basics

First things first: what is a Grant of Probate? A Grant of Probate is effectively a document issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria which formally authorises an executor to manage the estate of a deceased person in accordance with their Will. Without Probate, the asset holders (say a bank or share registry) cannot be satisfied as who has the correct authority to receive the deceased's assets and may refuse to pay out.

Sometimes, for smaller estates or if assets are mostly jointly owned with a surviving spouse, asset holders might agree to release payment without requiring a Grant of Probate. This is usually on the basis that the person who receives payment promises to repay (or Indemnify) the asset holder if it turns out they paid to the wrong person.

If there is no Will, then you cannot obtain a Grant of Probate. Instead you obtain Letters of Administration. This is effectively the same, in terms of authorising someone to administer the estate, and would usually be obtained by the person who is the closest next-of-kin to the deceased.

“A Grant of Probate is effectively a document issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria which formally authorises an executor to manage the estate of a deceased person in accordance with their Will.”

Timeframes for Probate in Victoria

In order to obtain a Grant of Probate, the Court needs to be given information about the assets and liabilities of the estate, the deceased person, the witnesses to the Will, the executors and the Will itself. An advertisement of your intention to apply for Probate must also be placed on the Supreme Court website for at least 14 days prior to any application.

Often, making enquires to obtain all the necessary information can take a number of weeks. Also, you will need the Death Certificate for the application for Grant of Probate and possibly for making proper enquires regarding the assets and liabilities. Waiting for the Death Certificate to issue can therefore add a few more weeks to the process. Overall, if you have your application for Grant of Probate lodged within 1 to 2 months from the date of death, you are making timely progress.

The Court itself does not take long to process the application (maybe another 1 to 2 weeks) and this is done 'on the papers' using the electronic Court filing system. This means you do not have to go to a court hearing. There is also a general discretion for the Court to issue a 'Requisition' asking that you provide more information before they process the application and this can delay matters.

“Overall, if you have your application for Grant of Probate lodged within 1 to 2 months from the date of death, you are making timely progress.”

So, here we are a few months after death and you finally have a Grant of Probate. It is important to remember that this is the start of the estate administration and not the end. For a very simple estate, you might only need a further month or so to cash the assets and pay them to the correct beneficiaries. However, it can often be more complex than that. Factors that determine the timeframe to administer the estate include:-

  • Some assets will take time to cash or transfer. For example, if selling a property, final settlement might be 60/90/120 days from the day of sale.
  • There is a 6 month period for challenges to be brought against the estate and executors must wait until this period expires before distributing the estate, if there is any risk that a disgruntled family member might come forward.
  • There might need to be final tax returns for the deceased or for the estate. Failing to wait for the ATO to process these could leave the executor personally liable for a tax bill.
  • You might need to advertise for creditors to come forward and wait for a period of months while this advertising timeframe expires. This protects the executor if they are unsure of all of the deceased's financial dealings and creditors.
  • It might not always be a good time to immediately cash estate assets. For example, the shares just took a nose-dive, do you still sell regardless of available price?

There is a general rule that executors have an 'executor's year' to complete the estate administration. This means that you should be aiming to have the estate finalised and distributed within 12 months from the date of death.

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Need help with Probate?

Our expert legal team is ready to take your call!

Mitchell is the Managing Principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal. He is an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Law (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria). He also deals with areas of Employment Law, Wills & Estate Planning and Probate and can answer all your questions related to probate.

For further information, contact Mitchell on his direct line:

DIRECT LINE: 
(03) 8561 3318

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About Sharrock Pitman Legal

For fifty years Sharrock Pitman Legal has made a significant and long term contribution to meeting the legal needs of business owners and residents in the City of Monash and greater Melbourne area.