A centralised ACT wills register will be set up to make it easier to lodge, find and retrieve wills after a person’s death, and to prevent wills from being lost or destroyed.
The Legislative Assembly passed the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 (No 2) on Thursday 1 November.
The bill supports the creation of a new centralised wills register to be managed by the ACT Public Trustee and Guardian. The register was a recommendation of an ACT Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety.
Information about wills currently held by the ACT Supreme Court will be transferred to the Public Trustee and Guardian for inclusion in the centralised register.
It will not be mandatory to deposit a will with the wills register – people will still be able to choose to keep their wills in other places. However, depositing a will with the register will mean it can be easily located after a person’s death.
Attorney-General Rattenbury said not being able to find a will could create difficulties in the administration of a deceased estate.
“It may also mean that the person’s wishes cannot be honoured,” he said. “I strongly encourage Canberrans of all ages, from 18 and up, to establish a will and consider where it is housed.”
There will be an implementation period to set up the framework for the centralised wills register. After this, the ACT Supreme Court’s ability to accept wills for deposit will be removed and the wills transferred.
The bill makes a range of other legislative amendments which will improve and promote better services for Canberrans, including by:
- modernising succession laws to provide better outcomes and help create a system which is easier to understand
- updating tenancy laws, including through the inclusion of a new transitional provision to clarify that no cause evictions are removed from fixed-term tenancies that commenced before 1 April 2023
- amending unit titles management laws to support owners’ corporations to operate more effectively
- supporting the Human Rights Commission’s ability to consider a vulnerable person’s complaints in a manner that best protects the person, while ensuring the processes are compatible with the rights of the person complained about
- supporting the ACT Ombudsman to exercise their statutory functions more effectively by enabling them to access all documents which fall within the scope of an FOI request, even where a document is subject to legal professional privilege
- simplifying processes for government agencies or organisations complying with regulatory requirements under ACT laws.
Quotes attributable to President of the ACT Law Society Tim Dingwell:
“The legal procedures to administer your estate where there is no will, or the will cannot be located, are complicated and time consuming. This may give rise to unintended consequences, conflict, additional costs, worry and even hardship for your family.
“You should keep your original will in a safe place and tell your executor and your family where your will is kept.
“Ensuring you have a valid will that can be located, whether with your solicitor or lodged with this new wills register, will remove yet another worry for your family at a time of bereavement and disruption.”