A brief overview of the administration of the collection of death duties - Deceased estate files - and how to find the records.
The New South Wales government adopted the British practice of imposing death duties as a form of direct taxation intermittently from 1865 until 1874. The Stamp Duties Act of 1880, however, was the beginning of the consistent imposition of death duties until their abolition in 1981.
Under the Stamp Duties Act of 1880 and its replacement, the Stamp Duties Act of 1920, no probates (wills) or letters of administration could be granted until the duty was paid, or security was given for the same. The Act also extended to the estates of people who died intestate, including those handled by the Supreme Court Curator of Intestate Estates.
Deceased estate files date from the Stamp Duties Act of 1880 and continue until 1958. It is important to remember that these are dates of administration not dates of death. For example, there may not be a file for a person who died in November 1958 because their estate took several months to administer. Similarly, there may be a file for someone who died at the end of 1879 if the estate was administered in the next year.
Not everyone had to pay death duties. Exemptions could be granted and, if duty was charged, the amount would vary according to the assets involved and the relationship between the deceased and the persons entitled to the estate. For example, under the 1920 Act, widows and children under the age of 21 only had to pay half of the duty in estates under £5000.
Duty was also charged on those living outside New South Wales as long as they owned sufficient property or possessions in the state. For example, death duties were assessed on Rudyard Kipling's estate, as he possessed shares that were registered in New South Wales.
The Stamp Duties Office created a deceased estate file for every individual who died leaving property or other assets ('estates'), which were subject to death duties. The files contain the papers, correspondence and other documentation relating to the assessment of death duty by the Stamp Duties Office.
See the full description of the deceased estate files in our catalogue (NRS 13340).
The amount of information in a file can vary considerably. Some files contain an extensive and detailed examination of the deceased person's estate and possessions. Others files may consist of just the cover pages and the amount of duty that had to be paid.
Deceased estate files can include:
- a summary cover sheet: this includes the name of the deceased, place of residence, testate or intestate, date of death and age, marital status, administrator's name and relationship to the deceased, the final balance of the estate, a list of assets and their value at the date of death, and the full particulars of any debts that need to be extracted from the estate;
- calculations for statements of assessable duty, schedules and adjustment sheets;
- correspondence, including letters from solicitors regarding estates, companies or individuals giving statements about shares or other assets of the deceased, bank and salary statements and occasionally letters from beneficiaries;
- certificates of Valuation of Property which indicate the exact location of land owned by the deceased and what improvements have been made;
- Statutory Declarations from the executor of the will and from people involved with purchases of land or assets for the deceased;
- in some cases, a copy of the will (where included this is usually a typescript copy). Original wills are included in the Probate Packet for the estate, unless letters of administration were granted;
- schedules of furniture and possessions;
- transcripts from relevant courts, for example, the Supreme Court in Equity;
- references to Acts that provide precedents for actions;
- balance sheets of businesses.
The indexes to the files are available on microfilm; file lists and the files are all available at the Western Sydney Records Centre.
ARCHIVES IN BRIEF
Content in this Guide first appeared in Archives in Brief 29 - Deceased Estate Files and Archives in Brief 119 - How to find Probate and Deceased Estates
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