Wills Amendment (International Wills) Bill 2011

Written on the 27 March 2012

I also am pleased to rise and speak on the Wills Amendment (International Wills) Bill 2011. Other members in the chamber who are in support of this bill have raised the point that although it is relatively minor in terms of its technical nature, it will have major implications for many people throughout Victoria. I commend the Attorney-General for bringing it to Victoria's attention and into the Parliament last November. I understand the Australian Capital Territory has also adopted a similar bill, and other states are in the process of undertaking that as well and will be doing so later this year.


It was interesting to listen to Ms Mikakos's contribution and her opening remarks, in which she described the importance of a will.


I think we would all agree that a will is extremely important, and I, like Mr O'Brien, highlight the importance of urging everybody to make a will. Ms Mikakos highlighted a definition from Wikipedia and gave a bit of background about how long wills have been in existence. It is quite fascinating to think that wills, or the process of wills, have been around for as long as they have and have stood the test of time. That was a very interesting bit of background information. In this day and age, when we live in a so-called global village where technology and communication are extremely important, this piece of legislation and this reform will enable the process of


wills and will making to have more relevance to those people to whom it applies.


By way of background in relation to what this bill will do, as has already been highlighted, it amends the Wills Act 1997 to adopt into Victorian law the uniform law contained in the UNIDROIT (International Institute for the Unification of Private Law) Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will, a convention that was signed in Washington, DC, in 1973. The bill does this as part of Australia's responsibility under that convention. Australia has been a member of UNIDROIT since 1973.


The primary objective of the convention is to eliminate problems that arise when cross-border issues affect a will, where a will deals with assets located overseas or where the will-maker's country of residence is different to the country in which the will is executed.


This bill fulfils Victoria's obligation to the UNIDROIT Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will. It will enable Victoria to be in line with the law of the UNIDROIT member nations that are signatory to that convention.


As has been highlighted, a number of countries are signatories to the convention. The convention has been ratified in Belgium, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Italy, Nigeria, Portugal, Slovenia and some Canadian states. I also understand that the United States and the United Kingdom are signatories but have not yet ratified the convention. This convention pertains to a number of countries, and for the Victorian community -- which is a large multicultural community made up of people from all parts of the world -- it will give peace of mind to those people who can apply this legislation to those areas they may have come from.


I think it was Ms Mikakos who reminded the chamber that 40 per cent of the residents of Victoria were either born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas, so this piece of legislation may potentially affect a significant number of people.


As has also been said, members all have electorates made up of large multicultural and diverse communities. Essentially, this aspect of the bill will enable those people to have peace of mind when they are disposing of assets and distributing those assets, should they have assets in other jurisdictions. It will give those people and their families the ability to distribute their assets and property in a far more succinct way.


As has also been highlighted, this has been in train for some time.


It was put in place back in July 2010, when there was a decision of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General from all states and territories to adopt the uniform law into local legislation. It will allow Australia to formally accede to the convention, and it will provide a consistent approach to the recognition of international wills across all Australian jurisdictions. As has been highlighted, I think there is a time lapse of around six months for that to take place, as it needs all Australian jurisdictions to have passed similar laws. The convention states that that commencement should take place after a nation has acceded, so we look forward to other states and territories partaking in that process later this year.


[Hon. M. P. Pakula -- Partaking of.]


I thank Mr Pakula for that correction.


This bill is a relatively straightforward, technical bill that will provide great peace of mind to many people across Victorian communities. It will give individuals who have assets in multiple jurisdictions the ability to have a simplified process.


In conclusion, no matter where somebody has come from or the language they speak, it is good for them to know they are able to have an international will so that their assets and property will be disposed of in the manner they wish. I would urge all Victorians to ensure that they have a legitimate will so they can know that, following their death, their assets and wishes are recognised. I commend the bill to the house.

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