I have a Masters in Applied Law (Wills & Estates), which is a postgraduate specialisation in wills and estates.
So, what does that really mean?
This Masters degree is on-top of the normal law degree that people do to become qualified as a lawyer. This postgraduate specialisation is uniquely focused on Wills & Estates in practice; the real life of Wills & Estates legal practice.
Having spent my whole career in this area, undertaking the Masters (for me) was a way to get more indepth and specialised understanding of the nuances of wills and estates practice. The advisory board that overseas the Masters program includes prolific judges and incredibly experienced legal practitioners within the succession world.
In my Masters, the focus of my studies was on 5 key areas:
- Law and Practice of Wills, which included things like;
- the formal requirements of a valid Will and Codicils (i.e. amendments to existing Wills);
- the different components of wills, including executor appointments, revocation of earlier Wills, money gifts, property gifts, powers of trustees, dealing with business interests and other complex gifts and directions;
- assessing legal capacity when making Wills;
- ethics and professional responsibilities in will drafting;
- proof of death and burial laws;
- effect of marriage and divorce on Wills;
- alterations and different ways of execution of Wills;
- informal testamentary documents;
- Law and Practice of Estates, which included things like:
- various types of Grants of Representation (i.e. Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration);
- the duties and obligations of executors/administrators of an estate;
- liabilities of executors/administrators;
- administering estates with or without a Grant;
- the rights of beneficiaries in estates;
- intestacy (i.e. where there is no valid Will) rules;
- asset collection, payment of debts in an estate;
- costing and finalising an estate.
- Construction and Interpretation of Wills, which included things like;
- Court of construction and construction proceedings;
- rules of construing and interpreting Wills;
- specific rules of construction
- equitable doctrines in construing gifts in Wills;
- will drafting issues, including drafting Wills in blended families;
- lapsing of gifts in Wills
- admissibility of evidence in construction;
- Family Provision, which included things like:
- the historical foundations of family provision laws and moral obligations to provide for dependents in Wills;
- eligibility of different people to make a claim for family provision;
- commencing proceedings against an estate;
- types of Court Orders, including interim and interlocutory injunctions;
- self-managed superannuation funds and family provision;
- different approaches to categories of applicants for family provision;
- evidence and special/complex issues that can arise in family provision matters;
- release and compromise of proceedings, mediation and settlement;
- Elder Law, which included things like:
- regulatory framework regarding elder law;
- delegation of decision-making and capacity;
- incapacity and guardianship;
- equitable remedies, including unconscionability, undue influence;
- retirement villages and granny flats;
- residential aged care accommodation and staying at home;
- age and disability discrimination issues;
- financial and liabilities issues for elders.
And much, much more.
Each of these topics were thoroughly and thoughtfully assessed in a range of ways, with a primary focus on real-life scenarios for clients. Assessments were delivered via examinations, letters of advice to clients, drafting relevant documents, preparing court documents and submissions to mock files and oral presentations. In other words, there was definitely no place to hide if you didn’t know what you were doing!
The program is built by practitioners for practitioners, to give graduates a very comprehensive and in-depth understanding, tested against an extremely high standard of post-graduate qualification, of the specialised area of Wills & Estates.
As a College of Law Alumni and graduate of the Masters program, it is no doubt unsurprising that was pretty chuffed to join the College of Law teaching faculty as an Adjunct Lecturer for the Masters program in 2019. What better way to give back to this great team of educators then by contributing my small part as a Lecturer. At least I can honestly say that I can identify with the students, having already gone through it myself!