When we store Wills clients often ask “who can get access to my Will once I die?” The answer is there is no single category of people who can access your Will once you have passed away. However, we always remind clients the people who are your executor/s will always be granted access. The reason is your executor/s will need to provide the original Will when applying for probate. In NSW the Succession Act allows the following people even if they are not an executor access to an original Will. These include:
- People named or referred to in the Will, whether as a beneficiary or not;
- Any person named or referred to in an earlier Will as a beneficiary of the deceased person;
- The surviving spouse, de facto partner (whether of the same or the opposite sex) or issue of the deceased person;
- A parent or guardian of the deceased person;
- Any person who would be entitled to a share of the estate of the deceased person if the deceased person had died intestate;
- Parents or guardians of a minor referred to in the Will or who would be entitled to a share of the estate of the testator if the testator had died intestate;
- Any person (including a creditor) who has or may have a claim at law or in equity against the estate of the deceased person;
- Any person committed with the management of the deceased person’s estate under the NSW Trustee and Guardian Act 2009 immediately before the death of the deceased person;
- Attorneys under an enduring power of attorney made by the deceased person;
- Any person belonging to a class of persons prescribed by the regulations.
What if I don’t fall into the categories?
If you do not fall under any of these categories of people you will need to wait until the court issues a grant of probate. At this point, the Will becomes a public document and anyone can access it. To access a Will that has been issued a grant of probate a small fee will need to be paid.
As a general practice, we always advise our clients to ensure they inform their executors where their Will is. One technique we use to assist our clients is to provide certified copies. Our clients can then provide these to their executor/s and family to help locate their Will.
If you have questions regarding this article or estate planning feel free to contact us on (02) 9687 8885. Our team of estate lawyers will always be happy to assist you.