Missing the Original Will? What to do if you can only find an electronic copy or photocopy
Normally, when a loved one has passed, the next of kin must locate the original Will (see our article on locating original Wills), so the named-executor can apply to the Queensland Supreme Court Registry to administer the deceased estate. However, what happens if the next of kin can only find an electronic copy or photocopy of the final Will?
In these circumstances, the executor named under the Will can apply for a grant of probate and try to prove to the Court that the copy is a true copy of the final Will. A judge hearing the application must be satisfied that the copy is an accurate reflection of the deceased’s last wishes with respect to a number of factors, such as:
- Whether the deceased actually intended this to be their final Will;
- Whether the original Will was deliberately destroyed by the Will maker during their lifetime;
- Whether the terms of the Will were clear; and
- Whether the original Will was validly executed, among other things.
If satisfied, the judge can order that probate to be granted using the copy of the Will despite the original Will not being located.
These types of application are not made too often, but applicants can be successful, such as in the recent case of In the Will of Valerie Eve Robson (deceased)  QSC 52.
Alternatively, the next of kin can decide to apply for a grant of letters of administration, which is the application made when someone dies without a Will, so that the estate can be administered pursuant to the rules of intestacy. Determining which course of action is best may come down to the content of the original Will vs. what will happen pursuant to the rules of intestacy.
If any of these situations are applicable to you, please do not hesitate to contact our estates team to discuss prospects and next steps.
- Should the original Will be lost and only a photocopy or electronic copy remain, the named-executor in that Will can still apply for probate, but they will only be successful if the presiding judge is satisfied that the copy of the Will reflects the true intentions of the deceased.
- Alternatively, the next of kin could apply for letters of administration.
- Legal advice should be sought if you find yourself in this situation.
Our team of lawyers provide clear and timely advice and services on all areas of Wills and Estates law Australia-wide. Given that the legislative requirements for the construction and content of Wills, their execution, probate and administration and more changes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is highly beneficial to engage legal experts who are well-versed in these rules and regulations across all areas of Australia.
Contact one of our offices today to discuss any legal issues you may have from preparing Wills to challenging them.