Probate explained: What it is, how to apply and how we can help.

Executor Assist

When Martin’s father passed away , there remained the task of administering his will. This fell to Martin who felt honoured to have the responsibility but wasn’t exactly sure how to go about applying for probate and get things started. The process of probate seemed cold and daunting at a time when the family were trying to grieve.

With estates valued over $15k, probate is a necessary part of the estate administration process that involves an application to the High Court for the will to be recognised and approved legally. This can take time and work from the executor . It can be a tricky task but you don’t have to go through it alone.

What is Probate?

“Probate” means “to prove”, derived from the Latin verb “probare” – which is to test or examine. Applying for probate is done by the executor of the will for the High Court to formally recognise them as the administrator. The executor might be someone close to the will maker or they might be a trustee service like Public Trust .

Probate is done to determine the following:

  • That the will is understood to be the last will created by the deceased
  • That those applying for probate are indeed the executors of the will
  • That they will carry out the wishes of the deceased in line with the law

When the High Court has confirmed that everything is in order, the court registrar makes the grant of probate and provides a document stating that there is proof that the will submitted is valid and that the executors named are able to carry out the administration.

How to Apply

To apply for probate, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Pay an application fee of $200. You can apply for funding help [here].
  • Possess the will, either original or a copy.
  • Have an affidavit (a statement sworn before a lawyer, registrar or JP) by you, which:
  • Contains evidence that the person who made the will has died (e.g. a sworn statement by someone who attended the funeral or saw the deceased’s body, a death certificate – a certified copy may be acceptable).
  • Contains evidence of where the deceased was living just before they died.
  • States that the will is the deceased’s last will.
  • Possibly present other evidence, depending on the will (e.g. a will with limitation of effect clause will require evidence of any overseas wills and assets).

It generally takes around four to six weeks for the High Court to process the application, but depending on the complexity of the application and how busy the High Court is, it can take longer.

You can check the progress of your probate application by calling the Courts of New Zealand on 0800268787.

To apply for probate, you must submit an application to the Wellington High Court which meets the specific rules around format and process. Usually you won’t have to notify anyone else that you are applying for probate.

How to get Support

Being nominated as an executor of an estate can be a heavy undertaking. Probate is sometimes a tricky part of the estate administration process. At Public Trust, we offer a service called Executor Assist , which is designed to take care of as much of the administration process as you wish.

In being chosen to help with the probate in the administration, our service covers the following:

  • Confirming that the will is valid
  • Explaining the administration process and the role of an executor
  • Gathering the relevant documents for probate application
  • Applying for probate to the High Court

Applying for probate is not as complicated as it seems, but it does take time and it’s important to get every step right. In the long run, sorting your probate correctly will save you stress at a time that’s already difficult enough.

Check out Public Trust’s Executor Assist information here to see how we can help you.