LAW5450 - Principles of succession law - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Quota applies

Postgraduate programs are based on a model of small group teaching and therefore class sizes need to be restricted.

Not offered in 2017


Around 30-40,000 people die each year in Victoria. The management and distribution of their property is determined by principles of succession law. Succession law governs how the property of a deceased is distributed, who can manage a deceased estate and how distributions may be challenged distribution. This unit will enable students to understand the key issues affecting succession law, the directions that people can incorporate into a will and the professional obligations lawyers face in succession law.

The unit covers four key elements of succession law. The first is intestacy (when a person dies without a valid will) and will making. This part of the course examines the presumptive distribution of assets in intestacy and the novel Victorian approach. It also examines the execution requirements for will making and the process to grant probate to wills and codicils that do not meet those requirements.

The second key issue of the course is the doctrines affecting testamentary gifts. What can and cannot be done through the gift clauses? This part of the course examines the nature and limits of "testamentary freedom" (the ability of people to dispose of their estate as they wish).A key such limit is "family provision", under which close relative and partners of a deceased person can challenge the distribution of an estate.

The third part of the course examines managing and distributing deceased estates. This includes the standards for those managing an estate, control of funeral and burial arrangements and when and how can beneficiaries challenge or remove a personal representative.

The final part of the course examines professional obligations of lawyers. Succession law generates a high level of professional complaints against lawyers. The course will examine the special rules governing the conduct of lawyers, particularly when they act the personal representative of an estate.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. apply knowledge and understanding of important contemporary issues in succession law, covering: will making; the management and distribution of estates (whether or not a valid will exists); family provision claims; funeral disputes; and the related principles of professional ethical obligations relevant to succession law, with creativity and initiative to new situations in professional practice and/or for further learning;
  2. investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories in relation to will making and estate management;

  3. conduct research into succession law (including questions about will making, estate management, family provision claims and legal disputes about funeral arrangements), and communicating effectively and persuasively to specialist or non-specialist audiences and peers, based on knowledge of appropriate research principles and methods; and
  4. use cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate at an abstract level complex ideas and concepts relevant to succession law, including will making, estate management, funeral arrangements and family provision claims.


One research assignment (3,750 words): 50%

One take-home examination (3,750 words): 50%

Workload requirements

24 contact hours per teaching period (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements)

Chief examiner(s)