Frequently asked questions
What do I do when there is a death in the family?
There are many tasks to be performed when someone passes away, both legal and otherwise. Unfortunately, these steps must be taken at a time when people are grieving and in pain.
I have been made an Executor to a Will, what do I do?
Step 1 - Seek Advice
You have sort advice. This process can be confusing and daunting.
Swammed with obligations and paperword related to the death of a loved one. The last think you may need to to deal with all the issues associated with the legal side of the Deceased.
MJM Lawyers and our team will steps you through and assist were required.
Step 2 - locate and review the will
Hopefully this is easy, and you know where to locate the Will.
If the Will cannot be found there is still steps that can be taken, please see the additional questions below.
Steps 3 - Identify the "Executor"
Please see additional questions on the roles and responsibilities of the Executor.
An Executor is the person nominated in the Will to undertake the wishes of the the Deceased, manage and finaly distribute the assets mentioned within the Will
Steps 4 - "Application for Probate"
This is the process of fulfilling the wishes contained with the Will, managing and distributing the Estate. Please see additional questions below for more information.
This may be undertaken without a Solicitor. It may however be complex and difficult and you may want a Solicitor to undertake this challenging task for you.
There are many steps within Probate
MJM Lawyers would be happy to guide you in conducting this task yourself or can undertake the process on your behalf and ensure it is done quickly and efficiently by a team that are experts in this area of law.
See additonal questions for the detailed steps for the " Application for Probate in NSW"
Where can I locate the Will?
Is MJM Lawyers the right firm for conducting Probate in NSW?
MJM Lawyers is a boutique firm that specialises only in Wills, Estates Probate and Litigation relating to this area of law.
The Principal Lawyer of MJM Lawyers is Michaela Money with over 20 years specialising in Wills Estates and Probate. Michaela is a Accredited Specialist in this area and oversees all matters within the firm.
MJM Lawyers has three Accredited Specialist in Wills and Estates, ensuring the work conduct is completely or overseen by people that are the most quaified in this field of law.
Whether you decide to conduct all the steps yourself or have MJM Lawyers assist you or we can conduct the whole process of application for a Grant of Probate in NSW for you. If you choose to undertake the Probate application yourself our website at
MJMLawyers.com.au has online forms and all the information you need to complete this task.
If you require assistance or require MJM Lawyers to manage the whole process, we are ready to help.
MJM Lawyers will ensure it is done correctly and efficiently, keeping you up to date and fully informed as the process progresses.
What is the Executor?
This is the person named in the will to administer the affairs of settling the estate [ assets of the deceased]. The Executor of an estate is responsible for collecting the deceased's assets, paying any debts and then distributes the assets to the beneficiaries
What is a Beneficiary in a Will?
The beneficiary of a will is any person who is listed in the will as being entitled to receive a defined portion of the deceased person's assets or income.
The Estate of the Deceased is of small value, is it worth having an expensive solicitor?
Probate and a Solicitor may not be required to manage the Estate within a Will.
Obtaining a Grant of Probate from the Supreme Court of NSW is one of the main tasks that an executor of an estate undertakes. However, it is not just time consuming, it can also be costly. Some expenses that must be paid are advertising fees, court filing fees and additionally solicitor’s fees, the cost of administering the estate can be at least a few thousand dollars
However, sometimes it is not necessary to apply for a Grant of Probate when you are dealing with a deceased estate. That being the case, it is important to discuss the assets and liabilities of the estate with your solicitor to work out whether or not it is needed.
If Probate is not required fees associated with it are not required.
Please see additional questions relating to this.
Generally, in this case a Solicitor will not be required either. It is always recommended to seek legal advice to ensure whether Probe is required or not.
Low value assets of a Estate
An Executor of an estate can also generally avoid the need to obtain probate when the only assets of the deceased are of a low value, such as small share parcels or bank accounts.
Unfortunately, every financial institution will have a different threshold as to the amount they will accept before Probate is required to release the funds. This required contacting the institution to determine if a “Letter of Administration” is required. Finding the assets of the deceased may also be a challenge. MJM Lawyers can assist in locating the assets and contacting the related institutions if required.
What do I do if there is no will?
If the deceased died without a will, it means they have died "intestate" When this happens, the intestacy laws of NSW will determine how the assets are distributed.
The laws of intestate succession vary greatly depending on whether the deceased was single, married, or married more than once or had children or children more than one marriage. In most cases, the assets are distributed in split shares to their "heirs," which could include thier surviving spouse, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, and distant relatives. Generally, when no relatives can be found, the entire estate goes to the state.
See this link for more details
What to do if no original Will can be found?
This is where is starts to get “tricky “and involves a lot of time and research. We strongly suggest that you engage MJM Lawyers to guide and / or commence this work for you.
What is a Testator?
This is a legal term for the Deceased. “Deceased “is the more widely and common term for the person that has died, but many legal documents will still refer to the deceased as Testator.
What is a Codicil?
A codicil is a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed will.
How does a Codicil affect a Will?
If the deceased has made a codicil, or codicils, to the will, the application for probate will be for probate of the will and the codicil(s). Amendments made by a codicil may add or revoke small provisions or may completely change the majority, or all, of the gifts under the will. A codicil may vary or replace the executors named in the original will.
What is a valid Will?
To be valid a will or codicil, it must be in writing and signed by the deceased and by two witnesses and be verified that the will is not a carbon or photocopy. If you cannot find the original will but have found a copy, or if the will is unsigned or has not been properly witnessed, it may still be possible to apply for probate. Please contact MJM Lawyers for more advice and see additional questions below .
I have a unsigned and/or undated Will?
If the will is undated, evidence will need to be provided as to when the will was executed. This will be particularly important if there is another will to establish which was the last-made will. An affidavit [ see below for definition],by an attesting witness, or from such other persons who may have relevant information as to the date the will was made, or narrowing down the possible range of dates when the will was made, should be provided.
An affidavit of an witness will also be appropriate if there is any doubt as to the proper execution and witnessing of the will. If the will has any hand-written amendments that do not appear to have been initialled by the deceased and the witnesses, an affidavit of attesting witness as to whether those amendments were made before the will was executed will normally be required. Affidavit evidence may also be required if it appears that other documents were attached to the will at some time and that those documents have subsequently been removed, or if the will has been torn or otherwise defaced since it was executed.
What is an Affidavit?
An Affidavit is a written statement of fact which has been verified as truthful by the mechanism of a solemn process before another party. ... Most Court business is transacted on the basis of evidence in the form of affidavits, not witnesses giving oral testimony in Court.
Can I apply for Probate with a copy of a Will?
If the original will cannot be found but there is a copy of a will which is believed to be the last will of the deceased then the executor named in the copy will may be able to apply for probate on the copy of the will. The actual copy of the will needs to be filed with the probate application.
Searches must be done to locate the original Will
The affidavit of executor submitted with application, will need to explain where the copy of the will was found and set out all the searches that have been made for the original will (of which the will is a copy) or any later will that the deceased may have made.
undertaken for the original will. If the evidence suggests that the original will was last in the possession of the deceased then there is a presumption that the deceased revoked the will by destroying the original will. To rebut this presumption, the application will need to be supported by evidence (which can be included in the affidavit of executor to the extent that the executor can provide this evidence) that goes to prove that the deceased did not intend to revoke the will. Such evidence can include conversations the deceased may have had in relation to his or her will, but could also include evidence as to there being no substantial change of circumstances since the will was originally made that may have led to an expectation that the deceased may have changed their will.
List those entitled under intestacy [ definition see below].
The affidavit of executor will also need to set out who would be entitled under intestacy (ie if there was no will). If the people that would be entitled under intestacy are different from the beneficiaries under the copy will then it will be necessary to either obtain the consents of those persons who will be adversely affected if a grant of probate is made in relation to the copy will, or to prove that they have at least been served with notice of the application.
A Grant of Probate on a copy of a Will is called a Limited Grant
What’s a limited grant?
A grant of probate on a copy of a will is a limited grant. Although in most cases the original will is unlikely to be found the grant is limited until the original will is found and an application for a grant of probate of the original will is made. In the summons for probate (UCPR Form 111) this is to be included in the "relief claimed" section of the form:
Qualifications or limitations on the grant: Until the Original will is found and proved.
Similarly, this should appear on the draft grant of probate (UCPR Form 112) as the basis of grant:
Probate of a copy of the will: Limited until the original will is found and proved.In the affidavit of executor the executor should include an additional paragraph giving an undertaking to produce the original will to the Court if and when it is found and to apply for a grant of probate of the original will if the estate has not been fully administered
What is intestacy?
If a person dies without a Will you are said to die intestate. ... Intestacy may occur not only where a person fails to make a Will but also for other reasons such as: the Will fails to properly dispose of all their assets. the Will is not valid because it has not been signed and witnessed according to the law. There are other reasons why a Will may be seen as invalid. Please see addional questions below.
I found two or more different wills?
Only one version of a Will is valid
The courts will examine the documents to determine which one is the most recent version, which will often take precedence over any previous versions, assuming the latest one has been properly executed. When the latest version is not valid because it was not properly executed or there was undue influence, fraud or some other type of valid reason, the courts may rule that a previous version of the deceased last will is valid and that distribution and administration of the estate is done in accordance with the terms and instructions set forth in that document.
The deceased was not of sound mind when they made the last will, what do I do?
Where a person is not of "sound mind" or where they lacked testamentary capacity, that is the deceased did not have the mental capacity to make a legally binding and valid will, the will can be set aside and the next earlier will in time becomes the last will and testament of the deceased. There is a lot of issues relating to and proving this. MJM Lawyers strongly suggest contacting them if this issue is to be investigated.
What is Testamentary capacity?
Testamentary capacity is the legal term used to describe a person's legal and mental ability to make or alter a valid will. This concept has also been called sound mind and memory or disposing mind and memory.
I found a Will that was made before the Deceased married [ or remarried]
Generally, in NSW the will is revoked upon marriage.However, Wills made in contemplation of marriage are not revoked if the marriage contemplated takes place.
When is Probate not required?
Depending on the type, size and value of the assets located in New South Wales it may not be necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate in New South Wales. There is no statutory requirement to obtain probate in every case. Some asset holders will often release smaller amounts without the need for probate to be obtained. They may simply require sighting the original will and original death certificate. This may be different from one asset holder to another like Banks.
When Probate is required
In most cases, if the deceased owned property or assets that had no other names attached, an estate must go through probate in order to transfer the property into the name(s) of any beneficiaries.
The deceased had assets in other States and Overseas, what do I do?
Grants of Probate can only be granted in NSW on assets within NSW.
It there is asset in other states of Australia or Overseas, Grants may need to be applied for in each of the states/ countries that the asset resides in.
However, if the deceased had assets in different states of Australia or in certain countries, you may apply for a Resealing of the original Grant.
A solicitor in those states or countries that deals with Grant of Probates will need to be contacted. This can be done yourself or MJM Lawyers can do so on your behalf.
Please see link to the Supreme Court of NSW on Reseals of Probate
What do I do if the Will is from another State or from Overseas?
If the deceased livred in onther state or Overseas and has assets in NSW, a Reseal of the Grant of Probate is required for the asset helpd within NSW. MJM Lawyers often conducts Reseals of Grants on behalf of clients in other states and overseas
Please see the link as a guide from the NSW Supreme court. This is a task that MJM Lawyers is qualified and happy to undertake on your behalf.
What is a resealing of the original grant? / Reseal of Probate?
A Reseal of Probate or Grant of Probate is the expression used when you need to apply to another State's Supreme Court, so that a Will that has already obtained a Grant of Probate in one State, can be recognised in another State.
Can I do the Grant of Probate myself?
It is always recommended that Executors seek legal advice to ensure this can be done correctly and without too much complication. Many Estates are straight forward and reality easy to undertake if you have the time. Please review the NSW Supreme Court website for steps.
However, as you have read it can soon become very difficult and time consuming. The is where the expertise of MJM Lawyers can assist
Please refer to the link to the Supreme Court of NSW for the steps to be undertaken for the Application of a Grant of Probate in NSW
What does a Grant of Probate Cost?
Grants of Probate have a fixed fee schedule so you will know beforehand the costs that can be incurred.
At MJM Lawyers our fees are usually less than this fee schedule
but not exceeding $150,000 $960
but not exceeding $1,000,000 $1,670
but not exceeding $3,000,000 $5,470
but not exceeding $5,000,000 $8,800
but not exceeding $10,000,000 $11,000
What is Uncontested Probate?
An uncontested will is a will that is processed through the normal channels, meaning no one challenges its validity, the person who was appointed as the executor, or the percentage of distributions that may be named inside the will
What happens if someone contests a Will?
If as the Executor, you are notified that someone will contest the will, please contact MJM Lawyers. They will advise on the actions required.
How do I contest a will?
There are four grounds for contesting a will:
(a) either the will wasn't signed with the proper legal formalities. Or
(b) the deceased lacked the mental capacity to make a will, or
(c) the deceased was unduly influenced into making a will, or
(d) the will was procured by fraud.
Caveats and contested proceedings
A person with an interest in the estate of a deceased person can file a document called a caveat which prevents the Court from issuing a grant in relation to the estate. A caveat remains in force for 6 months from the date on which it is filed. There is an approved form for a caveat (UCPR Form 141) and a filing fee is payable. The caveat must be served on any known applicants or potential applicants for a grant of probate or administration of the estate.
The Court will not stop making a grant in relation to a pending application simply because someone with a potential interest writes a letter or calls the Registry. The reasons a caveat is filed include where someone wants to challenge the validity of a will, which may be an informal will or a will that appears to be valid but where there is a claim that the will is a forgery or that there is doubt as to the testamentary capacity of the deceased, or a claim that the will was executed under undue pressure. There may be circumstances where there are two or more possible wills naming different executors.
An executor that wants to proceed with an application for a grant of probate can apply to the Court for a caveat to be removed if they believe that the caveator has no standing or that there is no real dispute as to the validity of the will.. Alternatively, if there is doubt as to the validity of a will, contested proceedings can be commenced for probate to be granted in solemn form. Such proceedings are commenced by statement of claim. An application for a grant in solemn form is determined by a judge rather than a registrar.
Contact MJM Lawyers to discuss these issues to confirm you have a case to proceed.
[create online assessment questionnaire]
I was left out of the will can I still claim?
Yes there is still opportunities to claim against the estate if you feel you have been left out of a will and you believe this is unfair.
You should take the following steps as soon as possible:
- Contact the executor and/or the solicitor acting for the estate and try to obtain a copy of the will.
- Start gathering evidence about your relationship with the deceased. See following question refering to evidence required to contest Will.
Contesting a Will what evidence is required?
The Court considers many factors whe determining if the will can be contested.
Was the provision you have already received adequate in relation to your maintenance, education and advancement in life.
Is there competing claims of other eligible persons or beneficiaries and there strenght compared to your claim
The nature and duration of your relationship with the deceased.
Your financial resources and earning capacity.
The size of the estate plays a large part on the ability to challenge. It the Estate is very small and after all the compulsary costs are taken out then the estimate of the Solicitors challenging the estate are taken in account, there may be very little left to be worth challenged regardless of how strong your claim is.
While the deceased was living the court will take in account the contributions you made, both financial and non-financial to them.
Any provision financally or in assets the deceased made for you during their lifetime.
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander customary law (where relevant).
Certain categories of eligible persons must establish that their relationship with the deceased person was such that they ought naturally to have been a beneficiary.
How Long does Probate take?
Do I have to use the Solitor that has the will?
No, there is no obligation to use the solictor that currently holds the will.
Checklist for Probate
Please see a checklist from the Supreme Court of NSW