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Brian first contacted Fred Appleton’s office in May 2012.

Brian was (and still is) in his 60’s and had had a long and successful career in one of the professions in Melbourne.

In the years following the GFC the ‘wheels fell off’ and he found himself in more than $200k of credit card debt after a failed project.

He felt he could continue to earn a decent income as a Consultant in his profession but at the same time he recognisied that his level of personal debt had become profoundly unsustainable.

Brian is from a generation that had been brought up to equate the word bankruptcy with failure (or worse).

Fred and Steve Appleton returned Brian’s call same day and listened to his story.

Brain told Fred he had made a connection with the story in Fred’s website and that perhaps his own perspective on bankruptcy needed to be reconsidered.

Fred told Brian he had had the same epiphany many years before.

Brain went on to tell Fred and Steve that his wife owned the house they jointly lived in and had done so for decades as it had been left to her from a parent. Brain also mentioned in the conversation that his mother had passed away the year before and that he was expecting a modest amount from his mother’s deceased Estate in the next 12 – 18 months.

Steve and Fred Appleton made the suggestion that Brian consider making contact with a registered Trustee to have a to have a ‘get to know you’ conversation where Brian could discuss the Trustee’s potential claim against his mother’s deceased estate and at the same time he had the opportunity to disclose to the trustee that he lived in a house his wife owned and they could discuss whether there were any potential issues or risks relating to his wife’s house.

Brian mentioned to Fred and Steve that he had seen a link to Nicholls & Co on the Appleton website and had also seen the Nicholls & Co website during his general research on bankruptcy on the internet. Brian mentioned to Fred and Steve that he had had a quick read of the Nicholls & Co website already and that he would place a call to Alan Nicholls later that day.

Brain requested and received the Fred Appleton bankruptcy questionnaires via email the same day. He completed the questionnaires within an hour or two hour in the following few days and returned them as instructed.

Brian’s bankruptcy documents were prepared to a professional standard by Helen Millward within a few days they were ready for his signature.

Whilst his bankruptcy documents were being prepared Brian spoke with Alan Nicholls who confirmed that as pending Trustee he would expect that he would have a claim to the Brian’s distribution from his mother’s deceased estate.

With regards to his wife’s house, Alan suggested that his wife obtain independent legal advice which his wife went and got the following week.

The legal advice suggested that the wife’s house would not be able to be claimed by Brian’s Trustee.

Alan asked to see a copy of the advice.

Importantly Alan Nicholls was able to assure Brian he could continue to earn an independent income being self employed whilst he was bankrupt as long as he used a personal ABN (trading in his own name).

Alan Nicholls told Brian that if he would like him to act as Trustee and he should send his signed bankruptcy documents to Nicholls & Co to his attention and, subject to his review of the ‘Statement of Affairs’ he would consent to act as Brian’s Trustee.

Helen Millward completed Brian’s bankruptcy documents within a few days.

Brian signed and dated the documents and decided to post the document to Alan Nicholls at Nicholls & Co.

After reviewing the Statement of Affairs Alan Nicholls decided to provide consent to act as Brian’s Trustee and lodged the bankruptcy documents with AFSA.

Brian was pleasantly surprised how straightforward the process was.

He found Alan Nicholls returned his telephone call and was professional and talked at the right level. Brian felt confident that Alan Nicholls would follow bankruptcy law and procedure and at the same time would treat him fairly.

Brian’s bankruptcy was accepted by AFSA and was in place about two weeks after his first conversation with Fred and Steve Appleton.

Brian received his Bankruptcy Notice from AFSA a few days later confirming that his bankruptcy application was accepted.

As Trustee, Alan Nicholls made a claim against Brian’s mother’s deceased estate about half way through the three years of Brian’s bankruptcy.

The legal advice regards the wife’s house was accurate and as Trustee Alan Nicholls had no claim against his wife’s asset on this particular file.

Brian kept working, got on with life and was discharged from bankruptcy in May 2015.

Here is what Brian said in an email to Fred and Steve Appleton a few weeks after his thee years of bankruptcy was completed.


Dear Fred and Steve,

Like many other Aussies who are encouraged to “give it a go”, I did, and enjoyed success until the business hit the wall…I had failed not only the business and my family, but myself. Like being alone on a wild sea in a thunderstorm there were few options other than that toxic word “Bankruptcy”, which I now realise was invented to terrorise us.

It took a very short time for Fred and Steve Appleton to put matters into perspective- they listened and commented with absolute sincerity and compassion, provided practical solutions and suggested I contact an efficient, but not officious, trustee, from whom I have just received my official “discharge” of bankruptcy. I feel healthier, happier and now have my priorities in order: my family, health and finances are settled.

The Appletons were, indeed, my lifeboat, so my recommendation is to follow the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who wrote that ….”a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”…the Appletons are, in my experience, that first step.

Brian J, Victoria, May, 2015

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