In the movies, we often see a ‘reading of the will’. However, although this might make for dramatic cinematography, the contents of a will aren’t generally shared this way. In this article Helen Phelps discusses who should have access to a will, and the responsibilities of those who are in possession of the will.

Who is an ‘interested person’?

Some Australian states and territories allow certain people to inspect or get a copy of a deceased person’s will. The ACT is one of these jurisdictions. The relevant legislation identifies these people as ‘interested persons’ and defines them by their relationship with the deceased. Relevant relationships include:

  • a spouse or child of the deceased
  • a parent or guardian of the deceased
  • an executor or beneficiary named in this or an earlier will
  • a person who’d be entitled to a share of the estate if the deceased had died without a will.

In the ACT, section 126 of the Administration and Probate Act 1929 (ACT) deals with interested persons. Under this section, if an interested person makes a request in writing, a person in possession or control of a deceased person’s will must give them access to it. This includes letting the interested person inspect the will, or giving them any copies of the will in their possession or control.
Therefore, the person in possession or control doesn’t need to contact interested persons to offer them a copy of the will or an opportunity to inspect it. The obligation only arises if an interested person requests a copy of the will.

How can we help?

If you’re having difficulty obtaining a copy of a will from the executor, or you’re concerned about the terms of that will, you should seek legal advice. You can contact our Wills & Estates team on 02 6285 8000 or by email to make an appointment.