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Estate genealogy research in Australia

Estate genealogy, also known as probate genealogy, is a specialised research field dedicated to identifying heirs to an estate. Estate genealogy services can assist with a range of complications and uncertainties associated with the will of a deceased person as well as the estate of a person who has died intestate — in other words, a person who died without a will or a valid will. Probate genealogy research in Australia can reunite beneficiaries with assets they are legally entitled to, thereby simplifying legal processes and ensuring that estates are effectively and rightfully distributed. 

If you want to learn more about estate genealogy and the work done by estate genealogists in Australia, this article will answer all your questions. 


What is probate genealogy?

Probate refers to the legal process that may be required to validate a deceased person’s will, depending on the type and the value of the assets left behind. Probate may be required if the deceased person was the sole account holder of a bank account with an amount of money above a certain value indicated in the will in order to release the funds to the executor. A grant of probate is issued by the court to verify a will as well as the executor who is responsible for administering the deceased person’s estate, paying any debts that are due, and correctly distributing the remaining assets as stipulated.

Probate genealogy research is employed to locate missing heirs and trace the next-of-kin in case of unknown beneficiaries. This research field plays an essential role in deceased estate matters. Since probate genealogy research is a complex and challenging process that may extend beyond a country’s national borders, a professional and specialised skillset is required to ensure seamless execution. Probate genealogy becomes particularly complicated in cases of intestacy.


What are probate records?

Probate records refer to all court documents released after a person’s death that relate to the distribution of their estate, both in the case of a valid will or in the absence thereof. Probate records range from wills, bonds, orders, and accounts to inventories, administrations, decrees and petitions. These documents are of high value to probate researchers since they may reveal important information related to the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. Details pertaining to the cause and date of their death, medical history, family records, property ownership, financial position, career history, estate witnesses and more can be uncovered and proven through these documents. 

The will typically contains information regarding the deceased person’s desired distribution of their estate. This includes descriptions of their property and major assets along with the names of their heirs and witnesses. Petitions in the probate package refer to the petition that must be filed with the court by an interested party to initiate the probate process. This includes the contact information, residences and relevant relationships of the heirs. Inventories in the probate package include a broad scope of information related to the worth of the deceased person’s possessions to be distributed. 

Locating probate records is no easy task. Since probate records are created by a court after a person’s death and are based on the nature of the will, these documents may be difficult to find and decipher. Depending on the date created, probate records that have not been digitised may become lost in courthouse archives. Probate records may also include foreign documents or be inaccessible due to varying protocols for storing and availing files in different countries. In Australia, probate records were kept and organised by each state since the beginning of the 1800s. In the case of a deceased person who owned property outside Australia, however, the will may have been probated in the foreign country. 


What does a probate genealogist do?

Probate genealogists are specialised researchers who may also be referred to as estate genealogists, heir searchers or forensic genealogists. Estate genealogists require extensive knowledge of national and international estate and intestacy laws in order to accurately and legally reunite rightful beneficiaries with the assets they are due to inherit. Forensic genealogists make use of a range of specialised genealogy research methods to locate missing heirs and assets. 

In the process of connecting heirs with their rightful inheritance, probate genealogists will establish the extended family tree of the deceased person. Probate researchers employ their expertise to draft accurate family trees that cover multiple decades and include extended family members. Once the detailed family tree has been outlined, stakeholders in the probate process are able to determine the legal holders of an intestate succession and trace missing heirs to distribute the estate as stipulated. The genealogy specialist will provide ongoing support to the heir to obtain and sign the necessary documentation to finalise the settlement of the estate. 


Do you need probate genealogy research support? 

Worthington Clark is a boutique family-owned and operated professional genealogy and asset research firm in Sydney with over 40 years of specialist experience in genealogy research for lawyers, trustees, companies, executors and beneficiaries. Request a quote for genealogy research services  from your genealogy specialists today. 

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