Do I get a copy of the will? When is there a reading of the will?

It is often assumed, as in movies, that following the death of a family member the solicitor will call the relevant family into a room and engage in the dramatic exercise of ‘reading of the will.’

Solicitors often receive requests in the recent weeks and months following death to read the will or provide a copy of the will, estate planning documents, relevant inventory, draft probate applications and beyond.

In NSW, s54 of the Succession Act requires a person that has possession or control of a will of a deceased person to allow certain categories of persons to inspect or be provided with a copy of the will (at their own expense).

Categories of persons entitled to inspection include; any person that is referred to in the will, (or in an earlier will), the surviving spouse or defacto, a parent or guardian, any person that would be entitled on intestacy (if there was no will), any person who may have a claim at law or in equity, a creditor or former attorney.

Requests that go beyond inspection of the will should usually be raised between solicitors, who will need to understand and assess the basis of that request, and will need to be mindful of a solicitors obligation to retain confidentiality under Solicitors Conduct Rule 9.

The Supreme Court recently considered the solicitor’s obligation to share information about the circumstances in which a will was prepared, before a grant of probate has been made in Re Estates Brooker- Pain and Soulos [2019] NSWSC 671. The Court observed that the sharing of confidential documents prior to a grant by the solicitor may be problematic, absent Court order.

If pertinent information is required to assess the prospects or merit of an estate claim, it is important to obtain advice and assistance from a solicitor and UWE have specialists in wills & estates that can assist.