The Victorian government passed the Justice Legislation Amendment (Succession and Surrogacy) Act 2014 on 16 October, prior to going into caretaker mode leading up to the election.
The Act includes significant amendments to the laws governing the contesting of wills.
Since the removal of any relationship requirement between a claimant and a deceased person in 1996, the courts have dealt with a wide range of claims. These claims are not only by spouses and children of the deceased person, but also grandchildren, nephews and nieces, carers and even neighbours.
The new Act now narrows the range of people who can lodge a claim. A spouse or domestic partner can challenge the will, as can a former spouse or domestic partner where there was not a property settlement between the deceased person and the claimant.
A late and significant change in the proposed law now means that a child of the deceased person can challenge a parent's will. In the first draft of the bill there was a requirement that children must be financially dependent upon the deceased at the time of death to make a claim. It was felt by many that this could produce extremely unfair outcomes, and the legislation which finally passed removed the dependency requirement in relation to children.
Carers, grandchildren and spouses or domestic partners of a child of the deceased may be able to bring a claim, but only if they were wholly or partly dependent on the deceased.
The new laws will take effect from 1 January 2015.
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