Death is a fact of life. We will all die at some stage. People seem to fall into two camps. Those who are concerned to ensure their wishes are carried out following their death and those who say - "I don't care what happens when I'm dead". This book is for those in the former camp and seeks to explain the legal processes and the rites and rituals surrounding death. Even when legal arrangements are made, death can sometimes create complications for those left behind. Feelings of distress at the death of a friend or family member can be compounded by finding that their estate is in a shambles, or that an obscure or previously unknown relative is challenging the will. This book provides practical information to help the reader anticipate what can go wrong from the perspective of the will-maker, as well as from the point of view of beneficiaries and executors

Legislation relating to wills and estates

The main legislation relating to wills and estates in NSW has recently undergone major changes due to attempts to harmonise legislation throughout Australia. Although there has been some improvement, legislation still differs from state to state and this book only covers the NSW position.

For many years the legislation was called the Wills, Probate and Administration Act 1898 and the last important changes occurred in 1989. Now the law relating to wills is found in the Succession Act 2006 (the Act) which commenced on 1 March 2008. The old act was renamed the Probate & Administration Act 1898 (PAA). The PAA is still relevant for some wills prior to March 2008 and for the administration of estates.

From 1 March 2009 the Family Provision Act 1982 was repealed and the law relating to family provision is now found in chapter 3 of the Succession Act. The Family Provision Act 1982 1982 still applies to deaths prior to 1 March 2009.

Commencing 1 March 2010 the rules of intestacy (see If there is no will - intestacy) are now covered by chapter 4 of the Succession Act 2006.

The information in this book is based on the law in New South Wales as at 31 August 2011.

About the authors

Rosemary Long is a lawyer who is an accredited specialist in wills and estates law. Rosemary worked with the NSW Public Trust Office for 14 years, and then practised in the areas of estate planning, wills and estates and elder law in various private law firms. Rosemary works as a sole practitioner on the Central Coast.

Trudy Coffey is a social worker who worked with the Commonwealth Repatriation Department before teaching with the NSW Department of Education. She is now the Director of Social Work of South West Sydney Local health network and the Social Work manager at Liverpool Hospital.

Note to readers

While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this book is as up-to-date as possible, readers are advised to seek expert advice when faced with specific problems. Rest Assured: a Legal Guide to Wills, Estates and Funerals in NSW is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.