How to Locate a Legal Will

Published: 27/11/2023
How to locate a legal will
How to locate a legal will

How to find a legal will in Australia: Your comprehensive guide

When you find yourself dealing with the passing of a loved one, emotions run high and amidst the whirlwind of feelings, there are legal responsibilities that must be attended to. One of these crucial tasks is locating the legal Will of your departed family member or friend. Finding the Will is not just a matter of closure; it's a vital step in fulfilling their final wishes and initiating the legal process of obtaining a Grant of Probate.    In this guide, we'll explore the steps you should take to locate a Will, dispel the myth of a central 'Wills register', and offer insights on the Australian legal landscape. 

The role of a grant of probate

In most cases, securing a Grant of Probate from the courts is necessary for the executor to administer your loved one's estate. To apply for Probate, you'll need both the death certificate and the original, duly signed and witnessed Will. In situations where there is no Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration might be required instead of Probate.

The myth of a central 'Wills Register' 

Contrary to popular belief, there is no central 'Wills register' in Australia. Instead, a few privately run, internet-based Will registries exist. These registries charge ongoing subscription fees to store an electronic copy of your Will and provide information about the location of the original Will.  

RELATED ARTICLE: Living wills: What are they, and why are they important?

Ensuring a smooth process

To minimise stress and save time when the time comes, it's advisable to inform your executor of the Will's location if you have one. If you're in a situation where the original Will isn't where it should be, or you're unaware of its whereabouts, here are steps to help you locate it:

  • Search personal possessions

Start by considering where your loved one might have kept their Will. Common places include filing cabinets, desk drawers or bedside tables, where important documents are typically stored. While searching, keep an eye out for correspondence from lawyers, which may provide clues about Will's location.

  • Examine emails

If possible, access your loved one's email accounts on their computer and smartphone. You might discover emails indicating the Will's location, the law firm that drafted it, or even drafts of the proposed Will. If you don't have their account details, consider reaching out to their email provider with a request for access to relevant content or emails.

  • Check secure storage

Did your loved one own a safe or rent a safety deposit box for valuables and important documents? Banks often provide safe deposit boxes, making them an ideal place to search for a Will.

How to locate a legal will
How to locate a legal will
  • Contact law firms, accountants and financial planners

If you know your loved one used the services of a law firm, start by contacting them. Law firms frequently offer storage for Wills and other important legal documents. If you're uncertain about whether they engaged a law firm, consider widening your search by reaching out to all the law firms in the area where your loved one resided. Additionally, financial advisors and accountants often offer Will storage services, so it's worth contacting them as well.

  • State Trustee

You can also get in touch with the Trustee organisation in your state. To access their registries, the Executor or Administrator may need to provide their identification, a certified copy of the death certificate and information about your loved one, including their date of birth and last known residential address.  

RELATED ARTICLE: Executor of a Will? What you need to know.

  • Australian death notification service (ADNS)

As a final resort, contact the Australian Death Notification Service (ADNS). The ADNS can conduct searches with organisations your loved one might have been associated with, helping you locate assets or information about them. Once found, the ADNS can inform these organisations of the death and provide them with your contact details.  

Finding a legal Will in Australia can be a complex process, by following these steps, you can increase your chances of locating it and fulfilling your loved one's final wishes. Remember that during this difficult time, seeking professional legal advice and assistance can also be invaluable in navigating the intricacies of the Australian legal system.

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