Deceased Estates


Before 16 June 1842, wills of deceased New Zealanders were lodged with the High Court, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

(For access refer to Supreme Court of NSW Probate Index which is available in some New Zealand libraries.)

 A will often contains information on the deceased, such as occupation and place of abode, as well as the names of the beneficiaries and details of bequests. After the death of a person, the will is taken to the Justice Department High Court where the Act of Probate is passed on it. Many probate registers and files have recently been transferred to Archives New Zealand and its regional offices. Where a person died without making a will, there may be a file of Letters of Administration containing the legal documentation required for giving permission for someone to administer the deceased person’s estate. Wills are usually probated at the High Court nearest to where the person lived, however, if the person had owned land in several areas, the will may be probated more than once. Not all wills are probated, if the estate is small and beneficiaries amicably agreed to disburse the estate without the extra burden of the probate fee, then these wills will not be found in the Courts or Archives New Zealand. If they have survived, they may be with a family member.

Before the 1950s, wills lodged with the Public Trust were all probated through Wellington High Court regardless, of the place of death and these will be found in the probate files at Archives New Zealand Wellington. After 1950 Public Trust wills were proved at individual High Courts and so from this period, they can be found at each office of Archives New Zealand . Members of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists are currently compiling a national index of the names of persons whose wills have been probated, or for whom letters of administration have been granted. The Index for 1842-1900 has been microfiched and can be read in public libraries or purchased from the NZSG. The offices of Archives New Zealand hold indexes to the probates.

Testamentary Registers of the Inland Revenue Department are also known as Death Duty Registers. Such information as the tax payable on a deceased person’s estate, date of death, value of the estate and usually the legatee’s and executors’ names can be found.