How do I conduct a thorough search for any Will/s or other testamentary documents?

Before making an application to your local Supreme Court for Probate or Letters of Administration

It is important to conduct a thorough search for any Will/s or other testamentary documents amongst the deceased's:

✅ Personal papers;

✅ Email accounts (it is almost certain, at least in recent times that most lawyers will send a DRAFT copy of the Will for review via email before it is signed); and to

✅ Contact the deceased's bank/s to determine whether they held a safety deposit box;

✅ Create a master list of all of the deceased's close relatives + contacts, + known lawyers + other professional advisors so enquiries regarding the existence and/or location of a Will or other testamentary documents can be made; as well as the ✅ Main locations where they have lived + worked throughout their life.

In conducting the searches, it is very important to:

✅ Keep written records of your extensive enquiries as evidence which may need to be provided to the Court in the event that no Will can be located.

In making general enquires you can use the following example^ as a template

NOTICE OF ENQUIRY REGARDING WHEREABOUTS* OF ORIGINAL WILL
Would any solicitor, firm or person holding or knowing the whereabouts* of a Will or other testamentary document of <insert name of the deceased> late of <insert deceased's address>, who was born on <Deceased's Birth Date> and who died on <Date Deceased>.
Please contact: <Your Name>, <Relationship to the Deceased/Company or Law Firm Name>. Phone: <Your Phone #>. Email: <Your email>.

Online Will Registries

Note: We recommend you screen capture all online search results.

Australia-wide

The Will Registry

🔎 Free to Search (Need minimum: Name + Date of Birth).

Note: Whilst the principle of one registry for all Australian Wills is a great idea, the business model used by this website involves a requirement to pay ongoing membership fees which does not make the proposition compelling and consequently the service has not gained widespread adoption and usage.

ACT

🔒 A.C.T Supreme Court [Will Repository].

$125 deposit, $46 withdraw.

Prices effective as at 1 August 2020.

ACT Law Society

www.lawsocact.asn.au

NSW

🔒 NSW Trustee + Guardian

$29 one-time fee for a single document; $49 one-time fee for multiple documents.

Prices current as at 19 November 2020.

Contact the Office of the NSW Trustee and Guardian and ask if the Will is in their Will Safe repository.

🔎 You can submit an enquiry online.

🔎 City of Sydney Law Society - Missing Wills or other Documents page

Cost $40 (Members Free).

🔎 Submit a request to the Supreme Court of NSW to search the Probate Office as they maintain a Will registry, where any person can voluntarily deposit their Will for safe keeping – fees apply.

NSW Law Society (Safe Custody)

www.lawsociety.com.au

🔎 From 2002 until 28 March 2014 the NSW Registry of Birth Deaths and Marriages (BDM) operated a Wills Register, however this service is no longer in operation.

They maintain historical information.

NT

🔒 N.T. Public Trustee

“You can store your Will for free at the Public Trustee office in a specially maintained vault.”

NT Law Society

www.lawsocietynt.asn.au

QLD

QLD Law Society

www.qls.com.au

SA

SA Law Society

www.lawsocietysa.asn.au

TAS

TAS Law Society

www.taslawsociety.asn.au

Vic.

🔒 The Victorian Will + Power of Attorney Registry

Anyone in Victoria can register information about where they keep their Will + Power of Attorney documents at no charge.

🔎 There is also the option to physically store originals for free.

Law Institute of Victoria

www.liv.asn.au

WA

🔒 W.A. Will Bank

Free service operated by the WA Public Trustee.

WA Law Society

www.lawsocietywa.asn.au

Contact our legal team to conduct further searches

Our legal team can be retained to send correspondence to other legal practitioners asking if they hold a Will for the deceased, as well as to conduct further specialised searches such as placing an advertisement in the “lost Wills section” of their local law society monthly journal:

For example:

🔎 LSJ: Law Society Journal of NSW; or the

🔎 QLD Law Society Proctor Journal.

^ Source: City of Sydney Law Society email to members: NOTICE OF ENQUIRY REGARDING WHERABOUTS* OF ORIGINAL WILL

*Sometimes spelled as WHERABOUTS!

Credits:

This FAQ was written by James D. Ford GAICD | Principal Solicitor, Blue Ocean Law Group℠.

Important Notice:

This FAQ is intended for general interest + information only.

It is not legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or used as such.

We recommend you always consult a lawyer for legal advice specifically tailored to your needs & circumstances.