Probate files - Auckland
Probate is the official proving of a will, or the issuing of the legal document to the executor or administrator, which gives them authority to deal with a deceased person’s estate. Probate files contain all the legal documentation required for the granting of probate i.e. the legal administration of an estate. Most files contain a copy of the deceased person’s will if one had been discovered.
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
A will is a statement made by a person in their lifetime of their intentions as to how their property is to be dealt with after their death. The general rule is that anyone (except an infant or a person of unsound mind) may make a will. A will must be in the form of a written document although any written document will suffice, even a mere letter. It must be signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses, who must themselves sign the will in the testator’s presence. If anyone to whom the testator has left property acts as witness, they will not be entitled to benefit under the will. The only exceptions to these requirements are for soldiers, sailors and airmen while members of New Zealand Armed Forces and seamen at sea.
Personal representatives who are appointed by a testator in their will are called executors. The function of the executor is to administer the testator’s property and to carry out the provisions of their will.
An administrator is a person appointed by the Court to administer the property of a person in three main cases, where the deceased has:
died without leaving a valid will i.e. intestate, in which case the personal representatives derive their powers from the grant of letters of administration.
failed to appoint an executor under their will.
appointed an executor, but the appointment has failed for some reason.
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:
an ex parte notice of application for Probate
an affidavit or affidavits
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
approximate date of death
date of administration and names of administrators
when probate was filed
net value of property
name/s of beneficiaries, and their relation to the deceased
name of solicitor
payment of duty details
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
Agency Series Dates Availability of FamilySearch BBAE 1568 1845-1886 Indexed by name BBAE 1569 1887-1926 Indexed by name (some gaps) BBAE 1570 1927-2002 Browse by record number - files online up to 1960
Agency Series Dates Availability on FamilySearch BBAE 1591 1904-1909 Browse by record number BCDG 4420 1910-1953 Indexed by name BCDG 4421 1954-2006 Browse by record number - files online up to 1966
Agency Series Dates Availability on FamilySearch BBNY 10441 1937-1938 Indexed by name BBNY 10297 1939-1960 Indexed by name BBNY 10440 1960-1994 Not digitised yet
Agency Series Dates Availability on FamilySearch BAZY 4992 1973-1993 Not digitised yet
Agency Series Dates Availability on FamilySearch BAJI 1594 1879-1969 Indexed by name BAJI 1595 1970-1991 Not digitised yet
Agency Series Dates Type BBAE 1587 1849-1886 Intestate files BBAE 1588 1845-1886 Register of grant of letters of administration BBAE 1590 1849-1868 Intestate orders to pay BBAE 1589 1869-1912 Unregistered probates BBAE 1592 1842-1867 Receiver of intestate estates
To locate probates more recent not yet held by us:
Contact the High Court nearest to where the person resided
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated on 31 October 2019