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What To Do If You Can't Find The Will?

If a person dies suddenly, there may be uncertainty on where their Will is located. Given that finding a valid Will can be essential for following through on their wishes, it can get stressful if there's uncertainty on where these important legal documents are. In this blog post, we take you through important steps on finding a Will, as well as the different Trustee organisations in each state that can help locate one.

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Locating a valid Will in the aftermath of death

During a time of loss, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the many significant decisions and legal obligations you might encounter. Whether that's handing the deceased's assets, bank accounts or funeral wishes- things can get overwhelming on top of grief.

What happens if you can't find the Will

If the deceased died intestate without a valid Will, or you cannot locate one, then things can get even more complicated- with the Supreme Court requiring a letter of administration application to proceed with administration of the deceased person's estate.

The letters of administration process follows a similar supreme court protocol and application process to probate, however can be more complicated and drawn out. Without a valid Will, the supreme court will also decide how the deceased estate is distributed, and assets will likely be distributed to the closest eligible relative or based on de facto relationship rather than the deceased's wishes.

With this in mind, locating the Will of someone who has passed away is an important step to reducing stress and ensuring their wishes are seen through.

Ultimately, a valid Will can help you honour the deceased person and carry out their personal and estate wishes. To help you in this process, we've put together a step-by-step list of how to find a Will, before you administer the estate.

Why is the Will important?

Also known as someone's Last Will and Testament – a Will is a legal document that outlines the final wishes and estate plan of someone who has passed away. An original Will covers everything from the executor named to distribute the estate, people entitled to a share of the remaining assets, and any funeral wishes.

If they have made a Will, the deceased person is referred to as the Testator. Upon the Testator's death, the person named as Executor distributes the assets of the deceased in line with the terms of the Will.

If a probate grant is needed for an Estate, the Executor named in the Will needs the original Will document. This must be submitted to the court as part of the application. In rare cases, a signed copy may be sufficient.

When are letters of administration needed?

Where there is no Will, or the Executor is unable to carry out their duties, a Grant of Letters of Administration may be needed instead of Probate.

Rather than an Executor, the person carrying out these duties is called an Administrator, often the next of kin. In some states, applying for Letters of Administration requires the applicant to state what searches have been made to find the Will and estate plan of the deceased.

7 Steps to help you locate a Will

Step 1: Search personal possessions

To find out if a Will exists, start by searching your loved one's things, particularly desk drawers where they might keep papers. Documents that show your loved one communicating with lawyers might lead you to more information about the Will and other important documents.

Step 2: Examine emails

Your loved one's emails might contain evidence of a Will. Looking through emails can be helpful to find written communications with lawyers or an emailed copy of the Will. In some cases, you may be able to access content or emails from the deceased person's email account by sending a request to their email provider.

Step 3: Check banks and secure storage

As important documents are usually stored in secure places, it's helpful to check storage locations. This can include a family safe or a safety deposit box/safe custody arrangement with the deceased's bank accounts.

To gain access to a safety deposit box, the Executor or Administrator might need to provide the supreme court with:

  • their own ID

  • a certified copy of the death certificate

Step 4: Contact any lawyers

Your loved one might have a current or past lawyer if they were involved in any legal matters, like family law proceedings or a property matter. Contacting their lawyer could help with finding the Will as most law firms offer storage of Wills and other important legal documents.

To access documents stored with a law firm, the Executor or Administrator might need to provide:

  • their own ID

  • a certified copy of the death certificate

If you're unable to find a specific law firm, we recommend broadening your search and contacting all law firms in the area where your loved one lived to see if they hold any documents for the deceased.

Step 5: Contact accountant/financial advisor

Accountants and financial advisors also commonly provide storage for original Wills, so if your loved one used any professional financial services, we recommend taking a similar approach as outlined in Step 4.

Even if the accountant or financial advisor doesn't hold the Will, they may be able to give you further information of the deceased's assets, which can be useful if you need to apply for Probate.

Step 6: Contact the Trustee organisation in your state

Next, it's highly recommended to contact the relevant Trustee organisation in your state to see if they hold a Will for the deceased. In NSW, this is one of the required searches when applying for Letters of Administration.

To access the registries of the Trustee organisation, the Executor or Administrator may need to provide:

  • their own ID

  • a certified copy of the death certificate

  • information about the deceased, such as their date of birth and last known residential address

Finding a Will NSW: Trustee and Guardian

The NSW Trustee and Guardian is a major Wills provider and has a database where many Wills are stored. Before searching the Wills database, you will need the following documents and information:

  • the deceased's name, last known residential address and date of birth

  • the deceased's date of death and a copy of the original death certificate

  • your name, phone number and email address

  • your de facto relationship to the deceased

To search the online database, visit the NSW Trustee and Guardian website here.

For Victoria: State Trustees

The Victorian Will and Powers of Attorney Registry service is run by State Trustees, which stores information provided by the Testator about where they keep their Will. You will need a copy of the death certificate and proof of identification when contacting State Trustees to access the registry.

The contact details for State Trustees can be found here. You can also search for Victorian Wills made between 1841–1992 here.

For Queensland: The Public Trustee of Queensland

The Public Trustee of Queensland stores over one million Wills in the Public Trustee's Will database. You will need to contact the Public Trustee of Queensland directly to access this service.

The contact details for the Public Trustee of Queensland can be found here.

For South Australia: The Public Trustee

The Public Trustee in South Australia stores Wills where the Public Trustee has been named as Executor.

The contact details for the Public Trustee can be found here.

The Law Society of South Australia may also hold a private Will if it has been voluntarily placed in their own registry. Law firms in South Australia have access to the Wills Register, which identifies the law firm that created or holds the Will.

If the Will is not on the register, your lawyer can place a notice in the Law Society's weekly newsletter to inform other lawyers in South Australia that you are searching for the Will.

For Western Australia: The Public Trustee

The Public Trustee in Western Australia may hold the Will and estate plan in their Western Australian Will Bank. To access a copy or the original Will, you will need to provide details about the deceased and yourself, including:

  • the deceased's name, last known residential address and date of birth

  • your name, phone number and email address

You will then need to complete a form request:

  1. Follow this link here to access the Request for Copy or Withdrawal of Will upon the death of the Testator form

  1. Complete the form

  1. Post the completed original form and required certified identification to the location listed in the form. Alternatively, you can bring your completed form and ID to the office of the Public Trustee in WA during their business hours

For Tasmania: The Public Trustee

The Public Trustee in Tasmania provides a safe custody service where Wills and an estate plan may be stored. You will need to directly contact the Public Trustee to request the Will and provide proof of your identity. Following validation, the Public Trustee will deliver the stored documents to a service branch near you.

The relevant contact details for the Public Trustee in Tasmania can be found here.

For the Northern Territory: The Public Trustee

The Public Trustee in the Northern Territory provides Will storage services to Northern Territory residents. You will need to contact the Public Trustee directly to access this service.

The contact details for the Public Trustee in the Northern Territory can be found here.

For the Australian Capital Territory: The Public Trustee and Guardian

The Public Trustee and Guardian (PTG) in the ACT only stores Wills where PTG have been nominated as a primary or substitute Executor. If PTG is not named as Executor in the Will, or they chose to renounce the role, the Will may be given to the other Executor(s) named in the Will.

The relevant contact details for PTG can be found here.

Wills may also have been deposited with the Registrar at the Supreme Court and may be taken out with a payment. To access this service, a link to the ACT Courts Registry and Administration contact information is provided here.

Step 7: The Australian Death Notification Service

The Australian Death Notification Service (ADNS) can be used to conduct searches with organisations the deceased might have used. In case they hold assets or information about the deceased, the ADNS can notify these organisations of the death and give them your contact details.

For example, the ADNS automatically contacts several banks for you. These banks can then search to see if they hold any documents in their safe custody (such as a Will) for the deceased.

To access this service, you will need to go to the Australian Death Notification Service Website and provide the death certificate, as well as details of the deceased. After the details are validated by the service, the notifier can select and inform relevant institutions and services.

Still can't find the deceased person's Will?

If you have tried these steps without finding any results, it's possible the deceased did not have a Will. If there is no Will, the closest living next of kin might need to apply for Letters of Administration to handle the deceased's assets.

Who this person is will vary depending on the family of the deceased, and they will be unable to act as administrator on the estate without this letters of administration grant.

If this occurs, you may also be required to find further information on the people entitled to shares of the deceased estate, as well as information to apply and obtain a letter of administration.

For some states, an administration application requires evidence you have searched for a valid Will, meaning it's important to still carry out the steps to look for one before attempting to administer the estate.

Safewill Legal can help

Our team at Safewill Legal can offer you practical and specialised advice about your appointment as Executor or Administrator- helping you to obtain approval from the Supreme Court, and handle the deceased person's estate.

Safewill Legal is Australia's most affordable fixed-fee to obtain Probate and Letters of Administration service. We charge one fixed fee to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, and will help you with all administration matters, regardless of the estate's size.

Our team is ready to provide a complimentary initial phone call about where to start. Start a live chat online at or call us on 1300 942 586.

Last updated 25th May 2022
Lauren Solomonson
Probate & Administration Lawyer at Safewill Legal
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