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How Do I Access A Will After Someone Passes?

When a loved one passes away, there are many emotions and responsibilities that collide. There are funeral plans to be made and grief to process. After this, the responsibilities continue as the estate is reviewed and your loved one’s final wishes are carried out.

This article answers a few commonly asked questions relating to locating a will and actioning its content.

What is the first step toward settling an estate?

The first step toward settling their estate is locating their will so the executor may administer the estate. While it is strongly advised that everyone draft a will, it may not be clear to all interested parties how to get a copy of it. The right for an entitled person to inspect a will ensures they have the ability to assess the size of the deceased person’s estate and determine if they have grounds to contest it. So, who is permitted to obtain a copy?

The testator’s parents, spouse and direct descendants have a legal right to see the will along with other entitled parties such as all nominated beneficiaries and anyone with a legal claim to the deceased’s estate. We’ll focus here, though, on what a family member can do to obtain a copy of their loved one’s will. 

How to find the will

If you would like to inspect the original last will and testament, testators often entrust it to their executor, solicitor or the Public Trustee. If this is the case, the will must be produced on the request of an entitled person. A certified copy should be made available upon request. 

The obligation to produce a copy of the Will generally rests with the executor. In some circumstances, If the original has been stored in a bank deposit box or with a private vault storage facility, the process of getting access to it can be trickier. These locations are usually sealed upon the client’s death and may only be accessed by the executor along with the appropriate documentation proving their legal right of access.

It is also important to know that such requests for copies of the will can only be made after a person has died.  If a lawyer is holding the will in their storage you will be asked to produce confirmation (the death certificate) that the person has died before a copy will be released.

If you are unsure who the executor is and are unaware of who might have a copy of the will, try reaching out to family members or the deceased’s solicitor or accountant to find out where a copy may be located. 

What if you are refused access?

If a holder of a copy of the will refuses to allow you to inspect it for whatever reason, immediately seek legal guidance from an estate lawyer on what your options are. It is important to not delay because, in the event that you wish to contest the will, there is a limited period in which you can file for such an action. In Queensland, an application by a disappointed beneficiary to contest the distribution in a will must be made within nine months of the testator’s death (having given the executor notice within 6 months). 

Do you have questions about your rights regarding wills and estates? Contact us today to see how we can help you protect your interests. Our free discovery calls are the perfect opportunity to speak with our team to learn how legal representation can assist you in moving forward.

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