Succession and Elder Law Residential 2017

Friday 6 October, Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa

President’s opening address

Good morning everyone and welcome to the QLS Succession and Elder Law Residential for 2017; looks like we have a great programme for the next two days, so many thanks to the QLS L&PD team and our Planning Committee  for putting it all together.

In accordance with the QLS Reconciliation Action Plan we have introduced this year, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, the Yugambeh and Kombumerri peoples, and pay respect to the Elders, past and present, and extend that respect to the surrounding Aboriginal traditional owners of this area.

It is one of the quirks of working in our chosen area of the law that we spend a great deal of time speaking about death, which can get a bit depressing; that is why this year we included a strand on life as well, because it is important to remember that succession and elder law is not just about death. In fact, a lot of what we do is about looking beyond death-the wills and plans we draft for our clients ensure that they have the reassurance of knowing that when they pass, their loved ones will have provision made for them, and someone to help them through the legal maze at a very difficult time.

Also, our advocacy on the part of the elderly ensures dignity and protection as people become frail and vulnerable; our job in this regard is crucial to our democracy. How a country provides for and treats its most vulnerable says a lot about what kind of country it is.

In that respect, each and every one of you here can be proud of your contribution to the rule of law that protects the elderly and eases their path through the final phases of life. You bring hope in dark days, protection in adversity and surety in times of high emotion; you have taken a noble path and should always hold your heads high as you go about your duties each day. In short, there is a great deal of good in this room.

Examples of solicitors protecting the aged and vulnerable abound-for example, in the recent case of Re APB, ex parte Sheehy, a wealthy and vulnerable man fell in with roguish, unethical people who went to great lengths to ingratiate themselves with him, isolate him from his family and seek to be made beneficiaries of his will. Through the efforts of solicitors those plans were thwarted. In August the decision of Londy & Pender as executors and trustees of the Will of Mary Hilary Kavanagh (deceased) v Kavanagh was handed down. In that case, the extreme lengths to which the solicitor involved went to ensure that the client’s wishes were respected and the influence of a greedy and bullying second cousin was dulled, saved the day.

It is cases like these which make me proud of my profession, and in particular my fellow QLS members, whose vigilance and competence is inspirational; it is a genuine privilege to lead such dedicated and competent protectors of the law.

It is also cases like these which make me sure that-despite all the dire warnings from the tech industry-we are not about to be replaced by robots. You can make AI that is faster than us and perhaps cheaper, but you can’t make it with passion, empathy or dedication; we bring more to the table than just legal knowledge.

Queensland Law Society’s commitment to Good Law, Good Lawyers and the Public Good has never been more important; our role at the Society is to ensure our members have the tools and the support to fulfil your role as guardians of the rule of law and protectors of our clients. Succession and Elder lawyers are very lucky-we are vaccines, not cures; we have the opportunity and ability to see problems before they occur and prevent them from ever happening-and we can do it as long as we have the right support. 

The Society has worked hard to ensure that our members have the flexibility and legislative regime necessary to discharge their duties. Over the last year or so we have seen the government commit to much-needed reforms of the Trust Act as per our submissions, and the commencement of a trial with General Practitioners to increase the reporting of elder abuse and the options available to victims; we have secured ongoing funding for community legal centres, who are often the only option for elderly or vulnerable suffering extortion and abuse.

Over the next day and a half you will grapple with these issues, and no doubt come away with more tools in your kit to handle them; but I also hope you come away with a sense of pride in what you do and an affirmation that you do indeed serve your clients, and the community, for the common good. What we do is important, valuable and fulfilling; it never hurts to be reminded of that in the midst of our hectic careers.

I hope you enjoy the programme and I look forward to catching up with you throughout the conference.