How are people made aware of a will?

Date: Aug 06, 2015

In some situations, those with grounds to contest a will may not be in direct contact with the deceased and can find it difficult to learn that they have the right to begin legal proceedings. This can often occur in cases of estrangement, for example, as there may be few social connections between the deceased and their estranged relative.

As part of the process of applying for probate, the executor of an estate will need to advertise their application for a grant of probate in case individuals wish to contest the will. This must involve a two-week notification period where the estate must be advertised online through the courts website.

Once individuals know that the executor is seeking a grant of probate, they will need to contact a wills and estates lawyer to begin an estate dispute. They will also need to access the will in its existing form.

Learning the contents of a will

There is no requirement that wills are read under Australian law, potentially making it harder for those considering contesting to learn how the estate has been distributed by the deceased.

Under section 54 of the Succession Act 2006 (NSW), there are a few key groups who are eligible to view a will. These include:

  • Any person named or referred to in the will, whether as a beneficiary or not, as well as those named as beneficiaries in earlier wills,
  • The deceased's surviving spouse, de facto partner or issue (children or grandchildren),
  • A parent or guardian of the deceased person,
  • Any person who has or may have a claim against the estate,
  • A person who has been granted enduring power of attorney by the deceased.

These are just some of the core groups that can view a will, with further considerations applying in cases of intestacy.

Individuals who do fall within these categories are entitled to see the will of the deceased. For those who also qualify as claimants, viewing the will is an important step in the process of beginning an estate dispute.

This also extends to any document purporting to be the will, copies of the will and any parts of the will.

To learn more about contesting a will, make sure to get in contact with a wills and estates lawyer who have expertise in estate disputes in NSW.