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Lack of will leaves mounting legal costs unchecked

Lack of will leaves mounting legal costs unchecked

A lack of uniform succession laws has led to millions of dollars being wasted in legal fees, a prominent wills and estates lawyer told Lawyers Weekly today. According to Dr John de Groot, who…

A lack of uniform succession laws has led to millions of dollars being wasted in legal fees, a prominent wills and estates lawyer told Lawyers Weekly today.

According to Dr John de Groot, who heads up de Groots Wills & Estate Lawyers in Queensland, discussions regarding a uniform national succession law system have been underway for 18 years, and yet little progress has been made to make it happen.

"We're only 22 million people but if you cross the border the differences in laws can be so dramatic," said de Groot. "The thing that I just feel is really disheartening and scandalous is the enormous costs to our community around the inconsistent laws."

De Groot claimed that inconsistent laws result in further legal fees for families following the death of a family member because if estates are located in different states or territories, they need to engage different sets of legal services to get their affairs in order.

He pointed to the example of one family he assisted following the death of a cousin who lived in Coolangatta, on the border of NSW and Queensland. The cousin died with no will, and due to drastically different succession laws in Queensland and NSW, one property he owned in Queensland was passed on to the family, while the other one located down the street but across the border, went to the NSW Crown.

"They were in disbelief saying 'this is Australia, surely you've got it wrong'," said de Groot. "We assured them that unfortunately the [differences in succession laws] was the case."

De Groot questions why little has been done to achieve the agenda established back in 1991 when the state and territory governments promised to reform their laws to create a national system, but wonders if the Federal Government can simply not be bothered. "The costs to the community are serious, especially in the time of a GFC when everyone is looking to improve efficiencies," he said. "This is an expense that our society can well do without."

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