After a loved one passes away, you might wonder when there is a formal meeting to officially read a Will? But contrary to what you see in TV and movies, there is no official reading of a Will in Australia. Here is when you can read a Will to help you understand your rights as a beneficiary.
Who is entitled to see a copy of the Will?
Whoever has possession or control of the Will needs to provide a copy to those considered an ‘entitled person’. The person in possession or control can include an executor, next of kin, lawyer or trustee.
In Australia, an entitled person concerning the deceased’s estate includes:
- A person referred to or named in any previous versions of the Will
- A person named in the latest Will as a beneficiary or otherwise
- A spouse, de facto partner or surviving children of the deceased
- A parent or guardian of the deceased
- Any person who would be entitled to part of the estate if the deceased died without a Will
- Any person who may have a claim against the estate
When can you see a copy of the Will?
Anyone holding the Will for the deceased must provide a copy of the Will after receiving a written request by an entitled person. Those entitled can ask for a copy of the Will as soon as their loved one passes away.
A Will becomes a public document after probate is granted. But if there’s anyone who feels they may be entitled to the estate, they should request a copy of the Will before Probate. That way, they have time to make a claim against the estate if they feel they were left out or not provided for enough in the Will.
After the executor applies for probate, you can typically search the Probate Registry to see if the application has started. Once the court grants probate, an official copy of the Will is attached to the record, and these documents become public. Afterwards, you can then enquire with the Probate Registry to view the Will.
How can you obtain a copy of the Will?
If you believe you are entitled to see a copy of the Will of a deceased loved one, then are a few ways you can obtain a copy.
- Contact the executor or if you’re unsure who the executor is, contact someone who you believe might have possession of the Will
- Search for the details of the Will on the relevant online registry
- The deceased’s personal representative, such as a lawyer or solicitor
- Contact the Supreme Court probate registry and ask for a copy of the Will
Executors are legally obligated to provide a copy of the Will to the relevant people when asked. Therefore, if they refuse to provide a copy, you can contact a solicitor or the court to provide an official request for the document.
What is a family provision claim?
If a beneficiary feels that they’ve been unfairly left out or provided for in a Will, they can challenge the document with a family provision claim. A family provision claim is where a person applies to the court for a part or larger portion of a deceased person’s estate.
You must meet the following criteria to make a family provision claim:
- Be an ‘entitled person’ in the eyes of the court
- Feel you did not receive due entitlements or were left out of the Will completely
- File a claim within 6-12 months of the date of the death
When the court makes its decision, it considers the Succession Act of the relevant state or territory. It’s important to note that you must file a claim before Probate is granted.
If you’ve lost a loved one and believe you are entitled to see a copy of the Will, it’s important to note there is no official reading of the Will. It’s your responsibility to provide a written request to the estate's executor to see a copy. If you feel you were not fairly provided for or were left out completely, you can file a family provision claim before Probate.
Investing a little time now to start your Will and plan your estate will save your loved ones any hassle later.