‘How to find a Will’ is a common question that people ask solicitors. Finding the lost Will of a deceased person is a time-consuming process. The objective of this article is to simplify this process for you.
Before coming to the topic of how to find a Will, let’s first understand what a Will is. A Will, also known as a testament, is a legal document which contains information on how the property of a person should be distributed following the death of the person.
There are various terms involved when discussing a Will, to read on about what beneficiaries, testator and executors are, read this article published on the JB Solicitors website.
It is important to find a Will because if a Will goes missing after the death of the testator (person who makes a Will), it can lead to a lot of confusion, and sometimes even disputes among close friends and family of the testator.
This article aims to answer the question of how to find a Will, and what the consequences could be if a Will has gone missing.
Who Can Search For A Will?
In NSW, under Section 54 of the Succession Act 2006, the people entitled to inspect a Will include: –
- Those who are referred to in a Will, or an earlier Will
- Some relatives – surviving spouse, de facto partner, parent of the deceased person
- The people who would receive the estate in case the Will is not valid, and the estate is distributed according to the NSW intestacy laws
- Those with any kind of claim against the estate.
How To Find A Will: Primary Steps
Firstly, it is important to understand that there is no government operated Will registry in place.
If you are confident that the testator has left a valid Will and it is not to be found, then there are some efforts you can take to find the Will. The primary steps you can take to find a Will include: –
- Searching the house (last known residence) of the deceased person to search for personal papers for the Will
- Thoroughly search for personal possession and paperwork.
- Speaking to the close relatives of the deceased person to check if they have any knowledge on the whereabouts of the Will
If these primary steps don’t help in finding the Will, there are other things that can be done. These include: –
- Contacting the deceased person’s financial advisor.
- Contacting the person’s bank to check if they had a safe deposit box, or had any personal documents stored in safe custody or securities.
- Contacting the deceased person’s solicitor, if you know them, or contacting local solicitors to check if they hold any copy of the Will of the deceased. To do, you can begin by looking for paperwork or any form of correspondence from solicitors.
- Get in touch with the NSW Trustee and Guardian if in NSW, and the equivalent service available in your state. The NSW Trustee and Guardian have an online portal for Deceased Will Enquiry, which allows you to look for Wills that may have been in their custody.
- Contact the Supreme Court of NSW and submit a request to search the Probate Office. They have a Will registry.
- Lastly, your solicitor can post an advertisement in the ‘lost Wills section’ of the Law Society of NSW Journal for other solicitors.
Will Nowhere To Be Found, But There is Evidence of A Will?
In case you are wondering how to find a Will after having seen concrete evidence that indicates the existence of a valid Will, there are other steps that you can take.
An application can be made to reconstruct the Will of the deceased, by presenting solid evidence. The evidence must reflect both the existence of the Will, and the terms stated in the Will.
If the Court is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence, it will reconstruct the Will.
Similarly, while searching for the Will, relatives may sometimes the copy of the Will but not the original. In some instances, in the past, the Court has accepted the copy and admitted it to probate. A probate is the Court order that validates the Will and allows the executor to distribute the estate.
What If There Is No Will?
Since you are seeking the answer to how to find a Will, you must be sure that the testator had a valid Will in place. However, in certain circumstances, the person dies without a valid Will in place.
In this case, the person is said to die intestate. What happens then is that the estate is shared under a set of law, wherein the law decides who the beneficiaries will be, and how the estate is to be divided.
How To Ensure That You Don’t Lose A Will?
Now that you have an idea about how to find a Will, it is advisable to stay aware about how you can yourself avoid such a situation in the future.
It is of utmost important to safely store your Will. You may do so by: –
- Storing your Will with a highly reliable organisation. Ideally a firm of solicitors is the best location to store your Will. Additionally, a bank or business that offers the service to store Wills is a good option.
- Informing the Executor, as named in the Will, on the whereabouts of the location of the Will.
JB Solicitors’ Legal Guidance On How To Find A Will
This article provides a brief explanation on how to find a Will. Oftentimes, it is best to contact a solicitor, as they can use their network and expertise to locate the Will.
Our friendly and compassionate lawyers understand how stressful these issues can be for you. Driven by their passion to help the community, you can rest assured that they will provide a high-quality legal service and, make sure that your concerns are addressed.
Contact our lawyers today to gain legal advice in a friendly atmosphere.