Not everyone who made a will has a probate file. The value of the estate appears to be the determining factor in whether wills go to probate through the High Court. This amount varied from time to time, but may be found in the relevant legislation (i.e. the various Public Trust and Administration acts).

In New Zealand the Supreme/High Court has exclusive jurisdiction in the matters of probate and administration (although until c1908, the former District Courts also administered probates). Those wills which were probated were usually lodged in the High Court nearest to where the deceased resided. However, a person’s will may have been registered in more than one court.

If a person died without making a will, then there may be a file of Letters of Administration containing the legal documentation required for administration of the deceased person’s estate.

Some explanations of terminology used in the Probating of a Will

Probate and letters of administration

Probate granted to an executor is merely the official recognition by the Court of the appointment made by the testator. The executor has not actually been appointed by the Court. The granting of Letters of Administration is the actual appointment of an administrator by the Court.

Although an executor can enter their duties immediately after the death of the testator, their right to dispose of the estate is not fully established until they have obtained a grant of probate of the will from the High Court.

In New Zealand, to obtain the usual grant of probate an executor must file in the High Court:

  1. an ex parte notice of application for Probate

  2. an affidavit or affidavits

  3. the will

Māori wills

Records relating to Māori wills from 1894 to 1967 may be found at the Māori Land Court.

The Māori Affairs Amendment Act 1967 transferred the power to grant probate and letter of administration from the Māori Land Court to the Supreme [High] Court. The Supreme Court prior to 1894 had this jurisdiction.

Public Trust wills

Public Trust wills generate a court file and until c1957 these were all filed in the Wellington High Court. These records are held in our Wellington archive. After 1957, Public Trust wills were proved in individual High Courts, so from this date they can be found amongst probate files held at each of our locations.

What type of information can be found in a probate file?

Probate files can be particularly valuable for genealogical research - they give information about deceased persons, including an approximate date of death.

A probate file generally contains the following information:

  • name of testator or intestate person

  • place of residence

  • occupation

  • approximate date of death

  • date of administration and names of administrators

  • when probate was filed

  • net value of property

  • the will

  • name/s of beneficiaries, and their relation to the deceased

  • name of solicitor

  • payment of duty details

Access

All of the Auckland probates are listed on our online finding aid Archway. There are no restrictions on the viewing of probate files.

Probates older than 50 years are being digitised and made available online free of charge via FamilySearch.

Probate records held in Auckland

To locate probates more recent not yet held by us:

  1. Contact the High Court nearest to where the person resided

  2. All probates filed after July 2013 are held at the Wellington High Court, irrespective of where in New Zealand the person resided. Contact the Probate Unit by email: probate@justice.govt.nz