Recommendations lead to landmark Succession Act reform

The independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI), based at the University of Adelaide, has made important recommendations culminating in the passing of a new landmark Succession Act to replace decades of out-of-date laws – one even stemming from the era of King Charles II in the 1600s.


Professor John Williams, with former Attorney-General John Rau, Associate Professor Sylvia Villios and Associate Professor David Plater.

The Succession Act 2023 passed the South Australian Parliament with all party support on 28 September 2023.

The new Act implements the work of SALRI, which is based at the University of Adelaide Law School, with wide acknowledgement of their role and work in the parliamentary debate.

The new Act implements a remarkable 107 out of 113 recommendations made by SALRI following wide research and consultation on succession law and practice, conducted by SALRI with the community, lawyers and interested parties.

This major project was overseen by the University of Adelaide’s Professor John Williams, SALRI Director; Associate Professor David Plater, current SALRI Deputy Director; Associate Professor Sylvia Villios of the Adelaide Law School; and the late Helen Wighton, SALRI’s founding Deputy Director.

“The State Government in 2011 invited SALRI to identify those areas of succession law in South Australia that were most in need of review and to recommend reforms where needed,” said Professor Williams.

“The new Succession Act 2023 delivers a modern piece of legislation that we hope will serve the people of South Australia well into the future.

“It is a fitting tribute to the memory of Helen Wighton.”

Helen Wighton

SALRI’s founding Deputy Director, the late Helen Wighton.

Associate Professor Villios said that the new Act deals with a vital area and brings succession law into modern times.

“The changes made by the new Succession Act range from the technical to the major,” she said.

“One notable change is to update modern concepts of family for inheritance. Another is to discourage speculative and unmeritorious claims by dissatisfied relatives and strengthen the wishes of a deceased.”

The Act implements no fewer than seven SALRI reports into many aspects of succession law and practice, undertaken between 2011 and 2018. This work involved reviewing various topics, including:

  • Review of Sureties’ Guarantees for Letters of Administration. 
  • Wills Register: State Schemes for Storing and Locating Wills.
  • Small Estates: Review of the Procedures for Administration of Small Deceased Estates and Resolution of Minor Succession Law Disputes in South Australia. 
  • The Law of Intestacy. 
  • Management of the Affairs of a Missing Person.
  • ‘Distinguishing between the Deserving and the Undeserving’: Family Provision Laws in South Australia.
  • Who May Inspect a Will?

“This was a huge project over several years,” said Associate Professor Plater.

“SALRI would like to thank the many parties who kindly contributed in various ways to this important work, including successive students of the Law Reform class at Adelaide Law School.

“We would particularly like to acknowledge the input of Dianne Gray, the Hon Tom Gray SC, Louise Scarman and especially the late Helen Wighton.”

The new Act will come into effect on a future date to be confirmed in due course.

For more information about the South Australian Law Reform Institute, please visit the University of Adelaide website.  

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