In light of the rapidly changing realities of family life, legislatures across the globe are struggling to ensure their governing succession law regimes remain fit for purpose. In the past decade alone, various law reform commissions including the British Columbia Law Institute (2006), the New South Wales Law Reform Commission (2007), the Scottish Law Commission (2009), the Law Commission for England and Wales (2011) and the Alberta Law Reform Institute (2015) have produced consultation papers and/or reports investigating the key implications of such changes on the succession law regimes applied. These publications have placed considerable emphasis on how best to reflect the realities of non-traditional families within the governing regimes.
Particular attention has been placed internationally on the position of two specific categories of ‘surviving’ children: first, a deceased’s children from a former relationship and, second, a deceased’s posthumously conceived children. What is interesting, however, is the extent to which the various commissions have reached opposing conclusions on whether, and to what extent, the interests of such surviving children ought to be protected. Although in relation to the former issue, a number of jurisdictions in North America and Australia have enacted reforms to better provide for a deceased’s children from a former relationship, other jurisdictions including England and Wales, have failed to recommend such reform in their most recent reviews. Regarding the latter issue, although a child born using assisted reproduction after the death of a genetic parent may now inherit on intestacy in jurisdictions including British Columbia pursuant to its Wills, Estates and Succession Act 2009, the Alberta Law Reform Institute refused to support such an approach in its 2015 report which focused specifically on this issue.
Drawing on these publications and surrounding academic commentary, Dr Kathryn O’Sullivan, School of Law, recently presented her paper entitled ‘Succession Law Challenges in Non-Traditional Families: International perspectives on step families and posthumously conceived children’ at the prestigious 16th World Conference of the International Society of Family Law. The conference focused on ‘Family Law and Family Realities’ and was held at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.