In the beginning of 1999 a seed was sewn in my thoughts about going it alone. After many years at a large institution and many takeovers by various Global Insurance Companies, enough of the Corporate Games was enough.

On 6 July 2009 APEARS was born with a grand total of zero existing work and potential clients of about 150.

The name has often confounded people especially in the beginning, but now it seems to have stuck permanently. There was nothing very scientific about it. One evening over a few wines, 3 or 4 pages of names were written down to try and best describe the business. Most of the names of course were too long to be easily “marketed”. So many different combinations were tried to attempt to come up with an acronym of some sort.

The final decision – Australian Probate Estate and Asset Related Services.

The first reseal came in August 1999 and was followed sparingly by another dozen or so in the next 6 months, a strike rate that was becoming hard to explain on the home front!

The first few years were in fact run from the home “office” which often meant a struggle with conflicting duties, especially when the first heir to the business arrived in 2000.

2001 saw the move into a real city office with associated overheads… however at this time the number of clients had started to swell and a regular stream of estates was flowing. Not many businesses can actually celebrate that fact!

Some of the great challenges (aside form the very first few months) have been the theft of the main computer in 2001, a sudden office change in January 2004, a complete computer melt down in February 2006, but mostly trying to keep the level of service at a very high level despite the workload. Technology has obviously helped, a computer was a rare machine when I first began working, but now a phone can do emails including attachments!

Initially, work was generally centred on resealing probates and dealing with share transfers and the stamp duty that was then in existence on all shares both on market trading and off. This has now expanded to completing many local Administration Grants, dealing with some now rare off market stamp duty requirements, dealing with more and more Superannuation Death Benefit claims, claiming what seems to be an endless supply of unclaimed funds held by various government departments, trying to find some missing beneficiaries (although most do not want to be found), resealing Grants in the UK and Channel Islands and of course still doing many reseals and the associated transfer and realisation of the assets held in Australia.

Some interesting moments have involved:

  • Obtaining a death certificate from the government in Nairobi following a small plane crash;
  • Being instructed on how to cook a Turducken (a chicken stuffed in a duck, stuffed in a turkey) from a stock broker in New York;
  • Dealing with the probate office in the Isle of Man (in fact dealing with any probate office!);
  • Attending my first NZILE conference in 2006 and being sorted into the playful group at the dinner by Alison Mooney;
  • Receiving offers to buy shares at well below market prices from the not so credible operators for estates that have already transferred or sold (and in some cases gleefully accepting causing the fraudulent dealers mountains of paper work);
  • Banter from across the ditch about our not so successful Wallabies and similar banter from the UK about the cricket!!

Forward on to 2009 and now well over 1,500 appointments of varying descriptions have flowed and clients (regular and otherwise) on the books now exceed 800.

The clients, who were initially predominantly from New Zealand with a few from the United Kingdom now include many more from both those countries and also now from the United States, South Africa, Canada, Ireland and various others from within Australia itself. We have also had occasionally dealt with Fiji, France, Jersey, Guernsey, The Isle of Man, Belgium, Italy and even Singapore.

Ten years on, a proper office, three heirs and some more grey hair… time flies when you’re having fun.

Thank you to all my clients in New Zealand and especially to the NZILE and your members who have been very supportive over the years from the very beginning.

PUBLICATION: ENVOY – The newsletter of The New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives
DATE: September 2009
AUTHOR: Andrew Johnstone, APEARS, Sydney, Australia

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