Wills, probate and intestacies in family history

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What information can the researcher find in records of wills?

Wills can be an invaluable resource for family historians and often contain information difficult to access elsewhere, e.g. the surnames of daughters whose marriages occurred outside dates covered by BDM indexes. A copy of the death certificate may be included, along with details of the deceased’s assets, occupation, and the names and addresses of children and grandchildren.

Things to bear in mind when researching wills…


A deceased person’s estate is usually administered by the executor named in the will or appointed by the Supreme Court. Only approximately 5% -10% of all wills go to probate. In general probate is only sought when a bank or other institution requires formal proof of the executor’s right to administer the will. If there is no requirement for probate, no copy of the will needs to be kept. However, copies of individual wills may sometimes be found in private hands or amongst the records of individual solicitors or executors.


Public Curator’s files include wills for which the Public Curator was appointed executor (elections) as well as estates for which there was no will and which were administered by the Public Curator (orders). Thus, some wills that did not go to probate may be located with intestacies files.

Where are the records of Australian wills and intestacies located?

Listed below are some of the resources that can help you locate a will including some of the titles held by the State Library of Queensland.

For contact details of the relevant Australian Supreme Court registry/repository to which to apply for copies of a will, check online at Graham Jaunay's website How to locate AUS wills


Queensland State Archives

Index to Wills, 1857-1940 [Index category - Courts]
Compiled from original Supreme Court files from all districts this index includes some wills for people who died outside Queensland. It does not include Public Curator intestacy files.

Equity Files Index 1857-1899
An online index to the original Supreme Court Equity files that include surname and given name of all people connected with a case including deceased, interstate and overseas residents.

Instruments of Renunciation Index 1915-1983
Instruments of Renunciation were lodged by executors who were no longer willing to administer a will. The records include details of the name, address and occupation of the deceased, date of death (and place if other than the deceased’s address), date of will, name and address of executor, relationship to the deceased, and date of renunciation.

Trustees Files Index 1889-1929
The files all relate to trusts set up under the terms of a will. They often cover several years with some files pre-dating the Trustee Act of 1889. Amongst other details the records may include information on the deceased's land ownership, children or other relatives, and employees.

For further information, consult Queensland State Archives Brief Guide - Will and Intestacy Records

Queensland eCourts Party Search

This is an online index to Queensland Supreme and District Court files from as early as 1992 (Brisbane).  The index is updated in real time. Files that commenced before the listed dates in the districts are included only if there has been some activity on the file since the index commencement date. Check the website’s Guide to searching for additional search options for the Brisbane area.

The State Library of Queensland holds:

Queensland intestacies, insolvencies and wills: index to notices in the Queensland Government Gazette 1859-1885 / edited by Mary Geiger and Rosemary Kopittke. [microfiche] (FICHE 929.3943 que)

Queensland intestacies, insolvencies and wills : index to notices in the Queensland Government Gazette 1886-1900 /edited by Jackie Buttress [microfiche] (FICHE 929.3943 que)

Queensland intestacies, insolvencies and wills 1859-1900 [CD-ROM] (QCFS 929.3943 2004)

Queensland intestacy returns index / compiled by Mary Geiger and Rosemary Kopittke. [microfiche] (FICHE 929.3943 GEI)  (Years: 1896-1916)

Transmission of real estate by death / compiled by Merle D. Grinly and Margaret A. Belcher. [microfiche] (MFC 929.3943 1995-) (Years: 1878-1940). The name indexes include details of occupation of deceased, spouse, address and date of death.

New South Wales

State Records NSW hosts the following online indexes to deceased estate records:

Index to Deceased Estate Files, 1880-1923
This index is an ongoing project and is being progressively updated

Index to Intestate Estate Case Papers 1821-1913
This index is an ongoing project and is being progressively updated

Index to early probate records 1790-1875

See also State Records NSW guides for:

Deceased Estates

Intestate Estates

Probate packets (wills)

The State Library holds:

Northern Territory

Northern Territory Supreme Court probates and index of administrations granted and sealed / Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory [microfiche] (MFC 929.39429 1991)

Probates and letters of administration granted by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory or other courts of competent jurisdiction / comp. L. R. Cossons [microfiche] (MFC 929.39429 1994) (probate jurisdiction dockets 1992-1993)

Papua New Guinea

Some expatriates of Papua New Guinea / compiled by Joan Ainsworth [microfiche] (MFC 929.3953 1992). Part 3. Probate notices (1888-1975)

South Australia

Supreme Court of South Australia testamentary index 1844-1995 [microfiche] (MFCB 346.9423052 1997)  An index to probates and letters of administration


Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office Index to Wills and Letters of Administration 1824 to 1989
Copies of wills (AD960) and letters of administration (AD961) up to 1989 have been digitised and are now available to view online.


Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds will and administration files from 1841-2016. Wills and probate records need to be searched separately. Records between 1841 and 1925 have been digitised and can be viewed online. Records after this time period can be viewed in the PROV Reading Room or you can request and purchase a copy to be emailed or posted.

For information on how to search and access them go to the Wills and Probates page.

The State Library holds:

  • Probate index Victoria: 1841-1992 [microfiche] MFCB 929.3945
    You can check this index to locate the probate number before using the wills and probate search option at the Public Record Office Victoria.

For information on probates granted after 01/01/2017 contact the Supreme Court of Victoria Probate Office

Western Australia

State Records Office of Western Australia provides information on Western Australian wills in their Information Sheet on Grants of Probate (wills) and Letters of Administration

The State Records Office holds two indexes to wills and letters of administration: 1832-1939 and 1900-1993. Files up to 1947 are available at State Records Office on microfilm for viewing. For any records less than 75 years old approval from the Supreme Court is needed before viewing. Application forms are available from the State Records Office.

What about wills in Britain and Ireland?

The State Library has numerous printed indexes to early wills, usually organised by area, such as:

Index to wills proved and administrations granted in the court of the Archdeacon of Berks, 1508 to 1652 / edited by W.P.W. Phillimore (G 929.34229 1893)

Index of the probate records of the Court of the Archdeacon of Berkshire [1653-1710] (G 929.34229 1975 )

Indexes to Irish wills [1536-1858] / edited by W. P. W. Phillimore and Gertrude Thrift (FAMHIS 016.9293 1970) 5 volume set organised in counties.

Check One Search online catalogue for further titles.

National Archives (U.K.) Research Guides

Under ‘W’ then ‘Wills’ there are a number of indexes including an index to over 1,000,000 wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1384-1858. The index is searchable by given name, surname, date, occupation, place and/or keyword.

For information on accessing wills in England and Wales, after 1858 see the National Archives’ Research Guides on Wills or administrations after 1858.

For Scotland consult the guide, Wills and testaments, available from National Records of Scotland.

For Northern Ireland consult the guide, Wills and Will Calendars, available from the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

Check ancestry.com (Library edition) and findmypast.com.au, available onsite only at the State Library, for further mention of wills and probates for Ireland and Britain, including Index to Irish wills, 1484-1858: records at the National Archives of Ireland.

What indexes does the Library hold to wills in New Zealand?

New Zealand probates / compiled by Marie Corser for the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. [microfiche] (MFC 929.393 1994)
The State Library holds vol. 1 only: an index to pre-1900 records

Wills at Land & Deeds Office, Wellington / compiled by June Springer [microfiche] (MFC 929.3931 1988).
A name index to wills dated c1833-1910.

New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998

Available from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ‘FamilySearch’ website. To search you do need to register but it is free to view. The records were created by various courts throughout New Zealand. The index contains entries up to 1998 when all images have been captured, but the images for probates issued during the past 50 years are unavailable for viewing due to New Zealand privacy laws. The original records are located in the Archives New Zealand offices situated in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Download the PDF version of Wills, probate & intestacies [PDF 96 kb]

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