Naomi de Costa is a Senior Associate and the Queensland leader of Maurice Blackburn’s Wills and Estates Law practice area. She is a Queensland Law Society Succession Law Accredited Specialist and trust and estate lawyer who is based in Cairns and sees clients in all of the firm’s Queensland offices of Brisbane, Browns Plains, Caboolture, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Mackay, Rockhampton, Strathpine, Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Toowoomba. The prestigious Doyles Guide lists Naomi as a recommended Wills litigation lawyer in Queensland.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Naomi recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.
You can find the full Q&A below.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, (experience, your practice, what you’re working on. etc)
I am a proud regional Queenslander, an accredited specialist in succession law and the Queensland leader of Maurice Blackburn’s succession law practice. My focus is on building our practice so that we can provide high quality succession law advice to all Queenslanders that need it, regardless of where they live, and whether they can afford it.
From your experience, what in your opinion are some of the key challenges facing Wills and estates lawyers today?
I think there are two issues – one is the perception that ‘wills are easy’ and as such that any practitioner can draft a will, or run a family provision claim, and as a result our expertise is not always appreciated. Succession law is a challenging area of the law, that involves not only a sound understanding of the legal principles, but also high level client management skills. We are usually dealing with clients who are either contemplating their own death, or grieving in one form or another, and managing them and the personal relationships involved is I think as big a part of finding solutions as the legal remedies that might be available.
The other major challenge is in relation to superannuation death benefits. Given the significant wealth held by Australians in superannuation, the general lack of understanding of most Australians of their entitlements, the complex circumstances of our clients, and the inconsistency of superannuation funds in approaching these matters, there are both risks and opportunities for practitioners in this area.
Your topic focuses on ‘Claims Relating to the Invalidity of Wills’. Why is it important for practitioners to attend your session?
There is no doubt that with the ageing of our population, the apparent increasing prevalence of elder abuse, and complex family relationships, we will see more questions being asked about whether wills are valid. While most of us can recite the limbs of the ‘Banks v Goodfellow’ test, in my view there is not much practical information out there about the forms of will invalidity, the processes and procedures around Supreme Court caveats, and how as practitioners we can try to approach these matters after a person has died in a way which is pragmatic and cost effective.
What do you see are some of the key takeaways and benefits for practitioners for their practice from attending your session?
Hopefully practitioners can be reminded of the legal bases for questioning the validity of a will, have some practical skills to obtain and review evidence, and protect their clients’ interests in the interim.
You can hear more from Naomi at the Wills and Estates: Disputes, Applications and Claims seminar, being held on Wednesday 22 November at the Mercure Hotel Brisbane.