When a loved one passes away in Victoria, it is crucial to understand the process of reading and accessing their will.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no formal ‘reading’ of a will in Australia as often depicted in films and television. Instead, the process involves a series of legal steps and rights that are important to be aware of.
Understanding the Will
A will is a legal document outlining the deceased’s wishes for the distribution of their assets and the care of any dependents.
In Victoria, the Wills Act 1997 governs the handling of wills. It’s important to note that a will only becomes public after the Supreme Court of Victoria grants probate.
🔑 Key Takeaway: A will is a confidential document until probate is granted, after which it becomes a public record.
Who Can Access the Will?
Before probate, certain individuals are entitled to view the will. These include:
- Anyone named in the will or a previous will.
- The current spouse or domestic partner of the deceased.
- Children, parents, or guardians of the deceased.
- Anyone who might have a claim against the estate.
After probate, the will becomes a public document; anyone can request to view it.
🔑 Key Takeaway: Access to the will before probate is limited to specific individuals but becomes publicly accessible afterward.
Obtaining a Copy of the Will
If you believe you are entitled to see a copy of the will, you can:
- Contact the executor or the deceased’s lawyer.
- Search the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
- Legal advice may be necessary to enforce your right to access the will if refused.
🔑 Key Takeaway: Executors are legally obligated to provide a copy of the will to entitled individuals upon request.
Legal Recourse and Contesting the Will
Legal avenues are available if you face difficulties in accessing the will or if you believe the will does not adequately provide for you.
You may contest the will or seek court intervention to access it. However, contesting a will is complex and should be approached with professional legal advice.
🔑 Key Takeaway: Legal support is crucial if you need to contest the will or face challenges in accessing it.
Also read: Superannuation Death Benefit
How We Can Provide Assistance: Reading of a Will Victoria
As a law firm specialising in estate matters, we recently assisted a client who approached us with concerns about reading a will Victoria.
The client, a daughter of the deceased, was unsure of her rights and the process involved in accessing her late parent’s will.
Our first step was to provide her with a clear understanding of the legal framework in Victoria, explaining that a will becomes public only after probate is granted. We then guided her through legally requesting a copy of the will from the executor, who, in this case, was another family member.
Our team also prepared her for the possibility of needing to search the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court of Victoria if the executor needed to be more cooperative.
Throughout our engagement, we ensured that the client was aware of her rights and the legal avenues available, including the potential to contest the will if it did not adequately provide for her.
Always Seek Legal Advice
Specific legal protocols govern the reading and accessing of a will in Victoria. Understanding your rights and the steps involved is essential, especially if you are a beneficiary or believe you have a claim against the estate.
In all instances, seeking legal advice can provide clarity and support in navigating this process to ensure that your interests are effectively represented.