Understanding the Basics of Finding a Will

how to find a will | Melbourne Family Lawyers

The first step in locating a will is understanding where it might be stored. In Australia, wills that have been granted probate are publicly accessible.

Probate is the legal process that validates a will, and once granted, the will becomes a public record.

This is particularly relevant for banks, land registries, and beneficiaries who might need to access, contest or challenge the will.

🔑 Key Takeaway: Probate makes wills public records, facilitating their location for relevant parties.

Eligibility to Access a Will

Not everyone is entitled to access a will. Under Section 54 of the Succession Act (2006), the following groups are eligible:

  • Beneficiaries named in the will or a previous version.
  • The deceased’s surviving spouse, parents, or guardians.
  • Those entitled to a share of the estate if the deceased died intestate (without a will).
  • Creditors with claims against the estate.
  • Persons with enduring power of attorney.

🔑 Key Takeaway: Legal provisions restrict will access to specific groups, primarily beneficiaries and close relatives.

Also read: Understanding Advance Care Directives

Finding a Will Online in New South Wales (NSW)

In NSW, the Supreme Court oversees the administration of deceased estates.

The Probate Registry of the Court maintains an online register of all granted wills. Various grants, such as Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration, are issued by the Probate Registry.

Executors and administrators must publish an online notice 14 days before applying for probate, allowing eligible individuals to contest or challenge the will.

🔑 Key Takeaway: The NSW Supreme Court’s online registry is a valuable resource for locating wills.

What if the Will is Hard to Locate?

If a will is not readily found, the first point of contact should be close family members or friends of the deceased who you think may be the executor of the will. It is also recommended that you contact the deceased’s solicitor, as wills are often left in their care.

If the solicitor is unknown, contacting local lawyers may help. In cases where a will remains untraceable, an application for ‘Letters of Administration’ is required to manage the deceased’s estate.

🔑 Key Takeaway: Solicitors are key contacts in locating wills; if unsuccessful, legal procedures exist to manage estates without wills.

Need a Lawyer?

Helping Our Clients: How to Find a Will

Recently, our law firm assisted a bank manager who sought guidance on how to find a will.

He was managing the estate of a deceased customer and needed to locate the will to proceed with the estate’s financial matters.

Our team explained the process, starting with checking if the will had been granted probate, making it a public record.

We guided him through the online search in the NSW Supreme Court’s Probate Registry. Additionally, we advised him to contact the deceased’s solicitor, as wills are often stored with legal representatives.

In cases where the solicitor was unknown, we suggested contacting local law firms that might have the will on record. Our assistance provided him with a clear pathway to locate the will, ensuring he could fulfil his responsibilities in managing the estate per Australian law.

Seek Professional Advice

Finding a will is critical to managing a deceased person’s estate. Understanding the legal framework and knowing where to look are essential for a smooth process.

Whether you’re a beneficiary, a relative, or have a legal claim, this guide provides a clear pathway to locating a will in Australia. It’s important to remember that while this guide offers a comprehensive overview, each situation can have unique complexities.

Therefore, seeking professional legal advice is always recommended to navigate the specifics of your case effectively and ensure all legal requirements are met.

Legal experts can provide tailored guidance and support, making finding and managing a will more manageable and legally sound.



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