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Still Time To Fix Up Property Relationships Law

There Is Still Time To Fix Up Property Relationships Law

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks is urging the Government to use the time still available to fix up the huge problems with the Property Relationships Bill before it is passed into law.

“It is amazing that the Government and the bill’s promoter Margaret Wilson have not as yet taken advantage of the long delays in the committee stages to remedy any of the mistakes in the draft legislation.

“We thought the delays meant the Government was having a few wise second thoughts about some of the absurd provisions – but apparently not, which is a great pity.

“This law, as it currently stands, will cause huge unhappiness. It will usurp the intentions of people when they make out their wills. It will encourage those in de facto relationships with property to break up their relationships to protect security. The ensuing chaos will simply put more money in the coffers of lawyers as the number of property relationship disputes escalates enormously.

“Even de facto couples who simply want to preserve their current arrangements will be unable to avoid lawyers. If only one quarter of the country’s 120,000 de facto couples try to contract out of the new law next year there could be $60 million in extra revenue for the country’s lawyers from just those contracts alone. There are about 700 family lawyers so from that business alone, they could each gross an extra $85,000 average.

“The Law Society confirmed to the select committee that legal advice will cost between $250 and $2,000 for each de facto partner - for reasonably straightforward cases. Where there are company shares, or trusts are required, it will cost much more.

“This legal appetiser comes just from couples who want to stay as they are now, and who agree with each other. The main course will be the boom in court cases and in separations. The dessert comes from family asset restructuring to avoid the risks that future opt out contracts will not be upheld.

“All of this was quite unnecessary. Parliament should use the time still available to fix these problems. Even just a change which sees the law apply only to relationships starting after the commencement date of the Act would be a start,” Mr Franks said.


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