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The day our own GM of estate planning found his
great-great grandfather

When our General Manager of Estate Planning, Stephen Hardy, was leafing through a collection of Wills at the Victorian Public Record Office (PROV), he made an unexpected discovery: 

His great-great-grandfather, James Barker’s, Will. 

But that wasn’t the only surprise. 

As Stephen leafed through the century-old document, one detail leapt off the page; it turned out that James had been a client of the very area of Equity Trustees Stephen now leads.

‘I was bemused to find my great-great-grandfather’s Will and probate documents online at the Public Records Office Victoria,’ Stephen explains.

‘James Barker – born Stirling, Scotland in 1830; died Flemington, Victoria in 1919 – left a will appointing Equity Trustees. 

‘James left a life interest for his second wife, and an equal distribution to his children and stepson on her death,’ he continues. 

‘The Probate documents provide some interesting detail – but to my amusement, Equity Trustees was appointed and administered the estate.’

As this small glimpse of the past shows, arranging an orderly transition was something that ran in the family – given Stephen’s ultimate specialisation in estate planning.

Stephen’s unexpected find raises two key questions: What is a Will, and what is Probate

A Will is the indication of how a person wishes his or her estate to be disposed of at death.

Probate, on the other hand, is the judicial determination of a Will’s validity. 

While Australia has no central archive of Australian Wills and related documents, collections are held in each State – either the State Archives Office or the Supreme Court Registry.

In Victoria, PROV holds Wills and Probate files administered by the Victorian Probate office from 1841 to 2014, as well as some 2015 records.

Today, just as in James Barker’s time, making a Will is an essential step in securing your future – and perhaps also something your own relatives in the future will look up with interest someday.

Photo Caption: Can you spot the family resemblance between Stephen Hardy and James Barker?