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13 Jul 2016

Local firm floats idea of national wills register

A company which helps people to write wills is pushing to get backing for an online national registry which would allow lawyers to check if a deceased person has a will and help provide faster connections for finding it.

Andrew Barnes, managing director of Perpetual Guardian, said it had approached law societies and other trust companies to get on board with its New Zealand Will Registry and also hoped to gain backing from the government for the concept.

Barnes said currently if family members did not know which law firm their deceased relative’s will was with they were left with a “undignified scramble through cabinets” to find it.

It was also hard to know if a copy of a will was the latest version.

“We are starting to see more wills contested - there is no clearly identified sequential record when you make a will.

How many inappropriate wills are probated?”

Barnes estimated there were around one million adults with wills in New Zealand with around 150,000 written or rewritten every year.

Around 30,000 people die in New Zealand every year and while 40 per cent did not have enough assets or did not need a will because their assets went to their surviving partner a large number of adults did have a will.

A further 5 per cent or around 1500 people did not have a will but had enough assets for family members to go to court to try and sort out who should inherit them.

Barnes said the registry would only be open to lawyers initially although it hoped to convince the legal fraternity to open it to the public in the future with users paying a small charge to gain access to the information.

Registration of a will would be free and site users could update the details as they needed to. Only the existence of a will would be available, not its location.

” We are starting to see more wills contested - there is no clearly identified sequential record when you make a will. “

If a person was searched for the service would then send an email notification to law firms and trustee companies which held wills to alert them to the search. Barnes said he was not pushing the registry to make money but saw it as part of his social responsibility.

Perpetual Guardian looks after around 140,000 wills which would be transferred on to the registry.

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Perpetual Guardian is a trading name of The New Zealand Guardian Trust Company Limited and Perpetual Trust Limited. For Authorised Financial Advisers, a disclosure statement is available upon request and free of charge.