- Where can I access the records?
- What is Probate?
- Access Probate Packets held by us
- Other records you can check
- Useful definitions
- Regulatory background
Records in a Probate packet include the last will and testament
Where can I access the records?
In our reading room for 1817-1976 & (part) 1989
In our collection NRS 13660 covers the years 1817 to 1976 (up to packet no. 4-828673) and part of 1989 (100001/1989-105663/1989). These records are not digitsed. You can visit the reading room to access these records or purchase a copy from Collection Search.
At the Supreme Court NSW for 1976+ and 1989 records not held by us
Please contact the Probate Divisions of the Supreme Court website for information about accessing records in this time period.
What is Probate?
The will in the Probate packet is considered by the Court to be the only legal document.
Records in a Probate packet include:
- the last will and testament
- codicils (additions or revocations to the will)
- letters of administration.
Other documents may include:
- inventory of assets of the estate; affidavits of death and copy of the death certificate; oath of office of the executor; affidavits sworn by the executor; executor's petition for probate; affidavits of attesting witnesses; notices of motion for administration; any application or lodgement documents including notice of motion for probate and address for service; orders relating to the filing of accounts; or renunciation of probate by executor.
Please note that not everyone who died in New South Wales has a probate packet. Depending on the type, size and value of the assets located in New South Wales it may not be necessary to obtain a grant of probate in New South Wales. There is no statutory requirement to obtain probate in every case.
Step by Step
Obtain the Probate packet number and series number.
Use Collection Search (our online catalogue) for Series 1, 2, 3 and part of 4
Follow the prompts to place your pre-order / purchase request
If no results are found above continue to Step 2
Check the Probate Index, 1800-1985 (microfiche) in the reading room
This has been published (with explanatory guide) by the Supreme Court NSW Probate Division and provides: Probate packet number, series number, name of deceased, residence, date of death and instrument.
Obtain the box/container number from the Probate packet item lists.
Make sure the series number from the microfiche index matches the series number in the item lists.
Place your Reading Room Request to view records via Collection Search
You can place your order at a computer in the Reading Room or from home at least two working days in advance of your visit
Click the orange request icon in Collection Search and then enter the details you found
Index to early Probate records
This index is for supplementary probate records that are not part of the main probate series.
Prior to 1858 wills in the UK were proved in one of two ecclesiastical courts. These were the Prerogative Courts of Canterbury (PCC) and York (PCY) which roughly covered the geographic areas: Canterbury - South of England, Wales, York - York, Durham, Northumberland, Westmoreland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire and the Isle of Man.
There were three main factors determining in which court a will would be proved:
- where the person died
- the value of the goods
- and how these goods were distributed geographically.
Importantly for NSW researchers, if an owner of property in England or Wales died overseas, such as soldiers or sailors, the will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). All PCC wills are indexed and available online at The National Archives. Many relate to military personnel, but there are entries for people such as William Redfern and John Oxley who also appear in the NSW probate records.
The Society of Australian Genealogists (02) 9247 3953 holds the UK's National Probate Index, 1858-1943 on microfiche.
Executor(s) are the people named in a will to administer the estate of the deceased. Administering the estate generally involves:
- determining the assets belonging to the estate;
- paying any debts (including income tax); and
- distributing the estate to those entitled to it.
The estate is the real estate property and/or personal property of the deceased.
A grant of probate is the authority given by the Supreme Court NSW to the executor(s) to deal with a deceased person's estate. Probate documents certify that a will is valid.
If there is no valid will or the executor(s) are unable to carry out their function, the Supreme Court NSW issues letters of administration authorising a person(s) to act as executor.
A person who dies leaving a valid will has died testate. They are often referred to as the testator.
A person who dies without leaving a valid will dies intestate. Without a valid will there is no named executor and the Supreme Court NSW issues a letter of administration.
Court of Civil Jurisdiction 1787-1814
The Court of Civil Jurisdiction was empowered to grant probate on wills and issue letters of administration for the personal estates of intestates dying within the NSW settlement. The Court of Civil Jurisdiction was dissolved in 1814.
Supreme Court of Civil Judicature 1814-23
After the Court of Civil Jurisdiction was dissolved three new courts were established; the Governor's Court, the Lieutenant Governor's Court and the Supreme Court of Civil Judicature. The Supreme Court of Civil Judicature had responsibility for probate.
Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court 1823-90
The Supreme Court of Civil Jurisdicture was abolished in 1823 and the Supreme Court of NSW was established in its place. Probate was placed within the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Court.
Probate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court 1890-1970
The Probate Act of 1890 established the Probate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to deal with probate.
Probate Division of the Supreme Court 1970 to date
The Supreme Court Act of 1970 altered the name of the Probate Jurisdiction to the Probate Division. The business of the Probate Division is divided into contentious and non-contentious proceedings. Contentious proceedings are conducted by the Probate Judge, other Judges of the Equity Division, Masters and the Registrar. Non-contentious proceedings are conducted by the Registrar and four Deputy Registrars.
A note about fragile records
The condition of records in our collection are checked on a case-by-case basis as they are requested for viewing or copying. If a record is found to be fragile we may withhold access until conservation treatment can be carried out - you will be notified if there is going to be a delay. Conservation treatments can take up to six months to be completed.
If you have the Probate packet details and cannot visit the reading room at the Western Sydney Records Centre, you can order a copy of the packet via Collection Search or the Probate Packet copy order form.
ARCHIVES IN BRIEF
This content first appeared in Archives in Brief 84 - Probate Packets
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