Desperately seeking lost estate

When matters of wills and legacies cross state lines and relate to years gone by, the difficulties are multiplied. Gavin* asks estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich for help.

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Q. Gavin*

My father passed away in Victoria in 2014. I tried for a few years to track down the estate and was left in the dark. I moved away from Victoria and currently live in NSW. I finally found a lawyer who told me the estate was in Queensland. I sent an email to Queensland two weeks ago and got a reply the other day that there was no such record in Queensland. I am running out of options. I don’t know what to do. I am on a disability pension and can’t go on anymore because of the stress. I hope you can help.

A. If there was a will and probate has been applied for, then a letter to the Probate Registry in the Supreme Court in the most likely states will confirm whether there has been an application for probate. The correspondence would need to include details of the

deceased’s full name, date of death, last known address and your relationship to the decreased.

Once you find out where the probate was processed, then you will be able to access the court records.

It is likely (but not necessarily the case) that probate would have been applied for in the state where the deceased owned assets, whether or not the deceased lived in that state, so I’d recommend focusing on the Supreme Court in those places.

This is a task regularly undertaken by lawyers who do probate work, and if you can’t get answers you will have to engage a lawyer to assist. If probate has not been applied for, then the task will be harder and you’ll have to start with assets owned by the deceased. Unless you have good investigative and process skills, you will have to engage a lawyer to assist.

* Not his real name

Rod Cunich is a lawyer with over 30 years of experience who specialises in estate planning. He is the author of Understanding Wills and Estate Planning, a practical book written for the layman. If you have a question for Rod, send it to [email protected] and we will seek to have it answered for you.

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