When someone close to you passes away, it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by the gamut of emotions and legal responsibilities thrust upon you. There are many responsibilities which must be met, one of which is locating your loved one’s legal Will. Through this act, you can carry out their final wishes and commence the legal process of applying for a Grant of Probate.
In most cases, a Grant of Probate must be sought from the courts in order for the executor to distribute the deceased’s estate. The act of applying for Probate requires both a death certificate and the original, signed and witnessed Will. In cases where there is no Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration may be needed instead of Probate.
Contrary to the belief many Australians hold, there is no such thing as a central ‘Wills register’. There are, however, a handful of privately run, internet based Will registries. These registries charge ongoing subscription fees for the storage of an electronic copy of your Will and an address of where the original Will is kept.
Wherever you decide to store your Will, it’s usually a good idea to notify your Executor of its location. Doing so will save time and minimise stress, when the time comes. However, in the event that the original Will isn’t where it’s supposed to be, or you haven’t been told of its location, here are some steps to locate the Will of a loved one:
Search personal possessions
Consider where your loved one may have stored their Will. Filing cabinets, desk or bedside drawers are all common places people tend to store important documents. Whilst searching for the Will, you may come across correspondence from lawyers which may lead you closer to the location of the missing Will.
If possible, take the opportunity to search your loved one’s email accounts on their computer and smartphone. You may find evidence indicating the location of the Will, the legal firm who drafted the Will or even drafts of the proposed Will. If you do not know your loved one’s account details, you may be able to access content or emails by sending a request to their email provider.
Search secure storage
Did you or your loved one own a safe or rent a safety security box to store valuables and important documents? Banks routinely rent out safe deposit boxes and are a great place to check for the existence of a Will.
Contact law firms, accountants and financial planners
Did you or your loved one use the services of a traditional law firm? As law firms commonly offer storage of Wills and other important legal documents, they can be an excellent place to contact when looking for a missing Will. If you can’t recall engaging a law firm, it may be worth broadening your search and contacting all the law firms in the area where your loved one lived to see if they hold any important documents for the deceased. In addition to lawyers, financial advisors and accountants also commonly offer storage for original Wills so it is certainly worth contacting their rooms too.
If all of the above measures have failed, then contact the Trustee organisation in your state. To access the registries of the Trustee organisation, the Executor or Administrator may need to provide the following information:
- Their own ID
- A certified copy of the death certificate and
- Information about the deceased including their date of birth and last known residential address.
Australian Death Notification Service
Last, but not least, contact the Australian Death Notification Service (ADNS). The ADNS has the power to conduct searches with organisations the deceased might have used. This can be helpful when trying to locate assets or information about the deceased. Once information has been located, the ADNS can inform organisations of the death and provide them your contact details.
Still can’t find the Will?
If you’re unable to find the Will after exhausting all of the above suggestions, it’s possible a Will never existed. When a legal Will cannot be found, the deceased’s next of kin may need to apply to the Courts for Letters of Administration. Willed’s legal services can help you navigate the process of applying for Letters of Administration as well as a Grant of Probate.
To enquire about this fixed fee service, contact us on 1300 945 533 or alternatively at [email protected]