Aitken Partners sends its heartfelt support to those Australians whose lives have been disrupted by the harrowing bushfires throughout the country.
We applaud the efforts of our firefighters and other volunteers in the community who are providing support and assistance to those affected on the ground.
For those in need of legal support, we hope the information below provides some assistance. If you require legal advice, we encourage you to contact Aitken Partners on (03) 8600 6080.
Disaster Legal Help Victoria is an organisation that provides free legal help and support to Victorian victims of natural disasters. The organisation is a joint initiative of Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar and Justice Connect.
Further information can be found here:
Helpline: 1800 113 432
Twitter (for updates on assistance available near you): https://twitter.com/DisLegalHelp
Law Society of South Australia: 1300 366 424
You should contact your insurer as soon as possible to advise if your property has been destroyed or damaged by the fires.
If you are currently residing in a bushfire affected area, you should take detailed photos of your property including any insurable personal items as evidence. You should also organise any necessary documentation, including policy documents, your certificate of insurance, and proof of purchase or ownership of valuables. Thorough and complete evidence of the state of your property before any damage is important to maximise your claim.
Benefits that may be available under your home insurance policy in addition to property damage include:
If you have urgent financial need, you may be able to have your insurance application ‘fast-tracked’, and have an advance payment made within 5 days of establishing your financial need to the insurer.
If you don’t understand your policy or need assistance with making a claim, you should seek legal advice, naturally we happy to assist you. If you are not satisfied with the handling or outcome of your claim, you can take your case to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
You may also be separately insured for:
You should ensure that all eligible claims are lodged.
The following resources may assist you with income support:
You may be eligible to access your superannuation early for financial hardship reasons. If you have been injured and are unable to work, you may also be entitled to income protection insurance through your superannuation fund.
The ATO has granted automatic deferrals for lodgements and payments due for those in fire-affected postcodes. For more information, visit: https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Dealing-with-disasters/In-detail/Specific-disasters/Bushfires-2019-20/
If you are suffering financial hardship and are unable to afford your bills and expenses, you may be able to arrange deferred payments with your creditors on the basis of financial hardship (particularly government fines, judgment debts, utilities providers, and financial institutions and lenders.
If you have lost personal documents in the fire, you may be able to recover or renew those documents:
If you have lost legal documents in a fire, the documents are usually still valid and enforceable. However, there are obviously difficulties in proving the contents of a document that is lost, and it is important to obtain new copies or remake the documents (if possible):
If your original will was destroyed by fire, it is extremely important that you write a new will. Further, if the fires have destroyed your home or other assets, you may need to revisit your will to ensure that the gifts you made in your will (such as a gift of your home to a family member) still takes effect as you intended.
If a loved one has passed away and their will is destroyed, a copy or reconstructed will can still be relied on in some cases. If you are in this situation, you should contact us to discuss what can be done.
If a copy of the enduring power of attorney cannot be relied upon for a person who has lost capacity, Victorians can apply to VCAT for assistance.
Please contact Jack Conway (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 03 8600 6048 if you have any queries in relation to the above or if you require further information.