Reading Of The Will (Qld)
After the death of a testator, a solicitor or executor of an estate will often be asked when they are holding a reading of the will. It is a common assumption, based primarily on dramatic depictions in television and movies, that a will is read once in front of all of the interested parties. In Queensland, there is no legal requirement for anyone to hold a reading of a will, and it is actually quite uncommon these days for a solicitor or executor to formally read the entire document to assembled beneficiaries. The actual statutory requirements surrounding the distribution of a will are outlined below.
Requirement To Notify Beneficiaries
The executor of a deceased estate must get in touch with the beneficiaries under the will and other parties mentioned in the will. This should happen as promptly as possible, often after the funeral, although this can be delayed until after the will is probated.
While an executor is not obligated to arrange a formal reading of a will in Queensland, sometimes they will arrange a family conference to discuss the contents of the will. During this meeting, the executor will outline the terms of the will and give the beneficiaries a chance to ask questions and make decisions about the funeral and the deceased estate administration. It is a good idea to hold a family meeting, as it provides a forum to clarify misunderstandings and to discuss options about the form of bequests. For instance, a beneficiary may express a preference to sell a property bequest rather than have it transferred into their name, and the executor can discuss whether this is possible given the terms of the will. Holding a family conference with an informal reading of the will allows an executor to proceed efficiently with the administration of the estate.
One of the reasons why it is not common for an executor to hold a reading of a will is that it can be logistically difficult to arrange. It can be highly difficult to gather all the beneficiaries in one place and time, particularly as some may live in another state or territory, or even overseas. This means that even if an executor does hold some form of family meeting for a reading of the will, they still have a responsibility to contact every remaining person named in the will.
If an executor does not discharge this duty to communicate with every beneficiary, then family members may be left to wonder whether they were mentioned in the will at all. Under the Succession Act 1981, certain people have a right of access to the will, regardless of the executor’s (or testator’s) wishes. The following people are entitled to inspect and/or obtain a copy of the will after the testator’s death:
- Someone named in the current will;
- A beneficiary of a previous will (whether or not they are specifically named);
- A spouse, de facto partner, child or parent of the deceased;
- Anyone who could have inherited if the deceased died intestate;
- A person who is the parent or guardian of someone under the age of 18, who would be entitled to inherit if the deceased died intestate;
- Someone who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor; and
- A person who is eligible to make a Family Provision Application to the Supreme Court of Queensland for further provision from the estate.
What If The Executor Will Not Cooperate?
If an executor has not responded to a request for a copy of a will, the most probable cause is negligence rather than misconduct. Some executors are inexperienced and struggle to stay on top of their responsibilities, and responding to requests is not their top priority. The executor may also have difficulty locating the will, and therefore may not be able to provide a copy in a timely fashion.
If someone has not received a response in a timely fashion, the best approach is to contact a wills and estates solicitor. A solicitor can provide specific advice, and an executor who is contacted by a solicitor will often immediately comply with the request.
It is advisable to contact a solicitor even after obtaining a copy of a will, as reading a will may not equate to understanding a will. The terms and clauses in a will can be full of legal jargon and difficult to understand. An experienced wills and estates solicitor can clarify the meaning of a will and also advise on options for lodging a Family Provision Claim.
The contested wills specialists at Armstrong Legal can help you obtain a copy of a will when there is no reading of a will, and give specific advice as to your chances of successfully contesting a will. Please contact our specialist team on 1300 038 223 for further assistance.