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New laws on international wills apply from 10 March 2015

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By Deborah Kliger, Law Graduate, MST Lawyers

New laws have been adopted in Victoria to recognise the validity of international wills.  The laws came into force on 10 March 2015.

Source of the new laws:

The changes were introduced following the government’s accession to an international Convention last year (the UNIDROIT Convention). The Convention created a new form of will- an international will. The new laws only apply to wills made in a country that has adopted the Convention.  The Convention sets out requirements for the form and manner of execution of international wills.

Enhancing certainty and uniformity:

The new laws simplify the process for recognising the validity of foreign wills. Previously, Victorian courts had to examine the laws of foreign countries to determine whether a will was validly executed. Under the new laws, international wills are valid in Victoria if the formal requirements are met.

Formal requirements for international wills:

The formalities for international wills are similar to those for ‘standard’ or ‘local’ wills. The key differences are noted below:

– The will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses and a person authorised to act in connection with international wills (a lawyer or public notary);

– The testator must declare in the presence of the witnesses and authorised person that the document is his will and he knows the contents of the will;

 – The testator must sign or acknowledge his signature in the presence of the above persons;

– Each page of the will is to be signed by the testator and numbered;  

– The authorised person shall attach a certificate to the will which states that the formalities have been complied with; and

– The authorised person must ask the testator if he wants to make a declaration regarding the safekeeping of his will. If so, the intended place of storage shall be noted on the certificate.  

Scope of the new laws:

The scope of the new laws is limited to the form of the will and the manner of execution. Once an international will is deemed valid, any further issues including capacity and construction (interpretation) will be governed by existing Victorian laws.  

For further information, please contact our Wills & Estates team by email wills-estates@mst.com.au or by telephone +613 8540 0230.