This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Death and taxes

Good news from the Public Record Office Victoria – they’ve updated their online will and probate index! You can now search for will and probate records from 1841 – 2007. Most records up to 1925 have been digitised and can be accessed immediately. Later records will need to be viewed in their North Melbourne Reading Room (pre-order required).

In Victoria, since 1852 the power to grant probate has been exercised exclusively by the Supreme Court, first by Judges of the Court, then by a Master in Equity and in more recent times the Registrar of Probates. Prior to 1852 the Resident Judge at Port Phillip of the Supreme Court of New South Wales exercised this power. The Court has maintained a register of all Grants of Representation (usually Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration) since 1841.
The will and probate records are fantastic family history documents. They can tell you the names of beneficiaries (often next of kin), addresses, occupations, dates of death, property owned and more
A will is the legal instrument that permits a person, the testator or testatrix, to make decisions on how their estate will be managed and distributed after death. The will usually names one or more persons, the executor or executrix, to carry out the wishes and directions in relation to the estate. A person who dies leaving a will is referred as having died testate. If a person does not leave a will, or the will is declared invalid, the person will have died ‘intestate’, resulting in the distribution of the estate according to the legislation of the state in which the person resided.
Probate is the process of proving to the court the validity of a will. The ‘grant of probate’ is the official document issued to the executor of the estate to pay all debts, collect any monies due and to distribute any remaining assets in accordance with the wishes of the deceased as expressed in the will.
Letters of administration are issued when a person dies without a valid will. This is the alternate grant to granting of probate. The grant is normally made to next-of-kin and the estate is distributed on the basis of a formula laid down by legislation.
And it is not all boring, dry legal terms, sometimes will,  probate and their supporting documents can give you a real insight into the deceased, how they operated their business life and their private existence, as well as links to previous and later generations. 
Wills and probate certificates are an essential part of the document trail for all family history detectives.

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