Betty Birch was 90 when she signed away her share of the family property to her son, Doug.
Betty Birch was 90 when she signed away her share of the family property to her son, Doug.

‘Mum left destitute’: $6m fight moves to High Court

A MAN is taking a bitter legal stoush with his brother over a $6 million family cattle farm all the way the Australia's highest court.

The dispute erupted after their widowed mother, Betty Birch, signed the property away to one of the brothers.

After seven years of fighting, one brother, Geoff Birch, has now applied to take the long-running battle to the High Court.

Jim and Betty Birch.
Jim and Betty Birch.

James Birch died in 2011, leaving his wife of 60 years a life interest in their grazing property, Fairyland, at Cracow, in central Queensland.

Three months after her husband passed, Mrs Birch, then 90, went with her son Doug, her power of attorney, to a local lawyer, signing away her third interest in the property to him.

Geoff Birch said his mother did not realise that by signing away her only asset she would not be eligible for a pension.

"It's heartbreaking for me and terrible for her. It's all she talks about," Mr Birch said.

The Birch family’s grazing property, Fairyland, at Cracow.
The Birch family’s grazing property, Fairyland, at Cracow.

In 2013, when Mrs Birch moved into a nursing home, her sons Geoff and Colin, by then her new powers of attorney, found out about the property transfer.

They launched proceedings against their cattleman brother Doug in the Supreme Court, with Geoff alleging the transfer was invalid and his mother was unduly influenced.

A section of the Power of Attorney Act says it is automatically presumed that an attorney has unduly influenced a person when accepting a gift from someone who is in their financial control.

Geoff and Betty Birch.
Geoff and Betty Birch.

Doug Birch was therefore automatically deemed to have taken advantage of his mother and had to prove why he had not.

However, the Supreme Court found in Doug's favour, ruling in 2018 that it was a valid property transfer and last year the decision was upheld in the Court of Appeal.

Doug Birch.
Doug Birch.

Shine Lawyers has now filed Geoff's application for special leave to appeal to Australia's highest court.

"Betty is a strong and proud country woman, who worked hard her whole life, but has now been left destitute in her final years," Shine special counsel Tracey Ryan said.

Originally published as 'Mum left destitute': Brothers' $6m stoush moves to High Court


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