Legislation to clarify Victoria’s succession and surrogacy laws has been passed by the Victorian Parliament this afternoon.
Attorney-General Robert Clark said the legislation amends Victoria’s succession laws to ensure they operate justly, fairly and in accordance with community expectations.
Mr Clark said the changes will help ensure families are not caught up in unnecessary disputes about wills and inheritance, and reduce costs if parties are required to go to court.
“These disputes can be lengthy and costly at a time when people are experiencing the loss of a loved one,” Mr Clark said.
Mr Clark said the legislation amended the Administration and Probate Act 1958 to limit who can make a claim on a deceased estate and the grounds of that claim.
“These amendments aim to restore the original intent that these provisions apply only in cases where a deceased has failed in their moral duty to make adequate provision for an applicant.
“Some categories of people (such as the spouse of the deceased, or a child of the deceased who is under 18 or who is a full-time student under 25) will always be able to make a claim.
“An adult child of the deceased will also be able to claim against the estate of their parent, with the court to consider the ability of that adult to adequately provide for themselves.
“Other applicants, such as grandchildren or household members, will need to show they were wholly or partially financially dependent on the deceased.
“In all cases the applicant will need to demonstrate that the deceased had a moral duty to provide for the applicant.”
The new provisions will also require the court to consider the terms of the will and any apparent reasons why the deceased made the distributions in the way that they did.
The new laws recognise that a person has a right to distribute their property as they wish. Where a person has made a will, the court should not depart from the terms of that will unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
The legislation also enacts important reforms to close a gap in Victorian surrogacy laws to allow parents of children born in Victoria through a non-commercial surrogacy arrangement in another Australian state or territory to have their parentage legally recognised.