Legislation which empowers a court to override a will is an expression of the balance between rights of individuals with respect to property and a checking mechanism in favour, broadly, of ‘family’. The process through which the Testator’s Family Maintenance Act 1916 (NSW) became the Family Provision Act 1982 (NSW) provides a fascinating case study of the process of institutional law reform; one in which the shifting philosophy of property concepts within families was expressed through the day-by-day exercise of getting law changed. Where the Testator's Family Maintenance Act 1916 had been introduced entirely through the legislative processes of Parliament, the Family Provision Act 1982, which superseded it, was the product of the work of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, and later, in the implementation of the Law Reform Commission's Report, Parliamentary Counsel. This article considers the process that led to the passage of the 1982 Act and reveals how personal the pragmatic process of law reform can be.
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