A Will is a highly personal document that reflects your wishes for your estate upon your death. At the same time, your Will serves as a set of instructions to an executor and contains important information about the entitlements of your beneficiaries. With this in mind, it is useful to know who can view your Will, before and after your death.
During your lifetime
Your Will is your property to treat as you wish during your lifetime.
We recommend storing it somewhere secure, such as a fireproof safe, a safety deposit box or with your lawyer or accountant as long as they can provide secure storage. After preparing your Will, our office can store it securely in our deeds register.
Are there certain people who should see my Will?
Most people will choose to keep their Will private but there may be circumstances where it is prudent to allow someone else to see your Will.
If you appoint an attorney to take care of your personal or financial affairs when you lose capacity, it may be appropriate to allow your attorney to see your Will so that they have a greater understanding of your estate. For example, it would be useful for your attorney to know that you plan leave your car to your granddaughter so that the attorney doesn’t sell your car when you can no longer drive.
Please contact us if you wish to make a Power of Attorney, or already have a Power of Attorney and want to include a provision allowing your Attorney to see your Will.
After your death
Section 50 of the Wills Act 1997 (Vic.) gives a list of who can see a Will after your death. Here, we set out each category in the list and explain some important features:
- Any person named or referred to in the Will, whether as beneficiary or not;
- Any person named or referred to in any earlier Will as a beneficiary;
- Any spouse of the testator (ie, the Will maker) at the date of the testator's death;
- Any domestic partner of the testator;
- Any parent, guardian or children of the deceased person;
- Any person who would be entitled to a share of the estate if the deceased person had died intestate;
- Any parent or guardian of a minor referred to in the Will or who would be entitled to a share of the estate of the testator if the testator had died intestate;
- Any creditor or other person who has a claim at law or in equity against the estate of the deceased person and who produces evidence of that claim.
It is important that these people have access to the Will so that they can understand their role and entitlements under the Will. This section also applies to purported Wills, so concerned individuals may inspect a Will that they think is forged, if relevant.
Some of the above people, such as your children, may be entitled to a claim against your estate if they are excluded from your Will. If you are considering changing your Will to exclude one of your children or reduce their entitlement, please contact us so that we can advise you on the potential implications.
If you owe a debt at the time of your death, the creditor may need to look at your Will to find the name of your executor or details of your assets if they are chasing up the debt.
If one of the above people asks to see your Will after your death, the person who has control of the Will (such as a lawyer) must make the Will available to that person to view and to make copies.
Please contact a member of our team if you have any further questions about who can see your Will.
Don’t have a Will yet? Read our post on the importance of making a Will and contact us to get started.
You can start your Will now, using our online platform. It’s safe and secure and you can start it anywhere and take your time with your responses.
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