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Meet ABL's newly appointed Special Counsel Nancy Collins

ABL Private, Dispute Resolution & Litigation
Meet ABL's newly appointed Special Counsel Nancy Collins
Newly appointed Litigation and ABL Private Special Counsel, Nancy Collins, gives an insight into her background, practice and what she values about working at Arnold Bloch Leibler.

How did you come to specialise in trusts and succession disputes, and what do you enjoy about this area of the law? 

Trusts and Equity were my favourite subjects at university. I am drawn to the concept of people taking on roles by which they owe duties to others, and to using the available legal structures to protect them and their family interests.

As a third year lawyer at Arnold Bloch Leibler, I had the opportunity to work with Partner Ross Paterson on a litigious matter involving a small estate and that piqued my interest in succession law. Then, in fourth year, I became very involved in a successful constitutional challenge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales’ powers to order  family provision under the Succession Act 2010 (NSW). My practice in the area has grown exponentially ever since.

ABL is uniquely positioned, with loyal, long-standing and sophisticated high wealth private clients, to assist in the resolution of any and all variations of succession disputes that can and do arise.

Half of Australia’s wealthiest individuals are now aged over 70. With baby boomers also ageing, it is estimated that trillions of dollars will transfer between generations in the coming decades.

Ideally, this generational transfer of wealth happens harmoniously, but that is not always the case. I find that when family members are arguing over their parents’ estates and trusts, strong, strategically focussed advocacy for my clients achieves the best outcomes. Sometimes litigation is necessary and when it is, years of experience in this specialised area is crucial.

Where do you see the legal environment heading in terms of your areas of expertise? What are the major trends that will impact on the work that you are doing?

With an ageing population, we’re seeing increased incidences of dementia. Dementia has become a leading cause of death, second only to heart disease. This has massive implications for family relationships, transfer of wealth between generations and the related legal landscape.

Lawyers have to be so careful about testamentary capacity, ensuring their client is capable of making a will or a power of attorney, and being able to justify the documents when a dispute arises. Elder abuse, particularly financial and psychological abuse, is sadly also on the rise and lawyers need to be alive to that issue with clients as they get older. 

At ABL, we respect the law and part of that is challenging the law where we believe it needs to be reviewed. ABL actively supported the changes to Victorian family provision laws to include classes of persons eligible to make a family provision claim. For too long, estates were the target unmeritorious family provision claims from non-family and extended family members.

“At ABL, we respect the law and part of that is challenging the law where we believe it needs to be reviewed in the interests of our clients.”

Nancy Collins, Special Counsel

I think that the next frontier for legislative change is likely to be implementing protections for elderly testators from the pressure by family members to change their wills. At present, the law allows a level of pressure which many people in society would consider to be unfair or improper. More could be done legislatively in this area to reduce the financial exploitation and psychological abuse of the elderly.

How have you developed such a strong reputation as an adviser to charities?

I advise a wide range of charities across the health, environmental and animal protection sectors in defending bequests and operating their bequest programs.

The nature of ABL means that I’m able to provide expert advice to these clients pro bono, and they know they can pick up the phone and access that advice without delay. That instant access to advice helps bequest managers immensely.

I’ve been exposed over the years to many different matters, covering family provision claims, testamentary capacity cases, claims against executors and tax issues. 

This means that in particularly litigious cases, I’m able to advise on the full gamut of challenges charities might face and, where necessary, draw on the expertise of colleagues across ABL’s many different practice areas.

How would you describe the professional environment here at ABL? 

Lawyers here have an extraordinary level of commitment to  ABL clients as individuals, and to commercial outcomes for clients. 

It is also very rewarding to be part of a firm which is so deeply and actively committed to the law and society, and their continual improvement.

To find out more about Nancy, click here.