Probate is the process of deciding who is authorised to administer a will on behalf of the deceased. In the absence of a will letters of administration are issued for the same purpose. A probate packet is all of the documents submitted to the Supreme Court to enable this decision to be made, and can include the original last will and testament and any codicils; asset inventories; affidavits of death, witnesses, and the executor, and sometimes the death certificate and occasionally even death notices in the local newspaper.
The NSW Supreme Court has transferred all existing probate packets up to 1960 to NSW State Records. These packets are held at the Western Sydney Records Centre at Kingswood and are available for public inspection. For more information about records held by State Records NSW see Archives in Brief No. 84 and Archives in Brief No. 53.
Death duties were payable from the estate of the deceased from 1880 until they were abolished in 1981. Payment had to have been made, or security given, before probate or letters of administration could be granted, unless exemption was given. Duty was calculated as a percentage of all assets involved in the estate, although the percentage varied according to the total value of the estate and the relationship between the deceased and the beneficiaries.
Deceased estate files can contain lists of assets, including land and property; inventory of businesses; Statutory Declarations; a copy of the will and correspondence. They are available for dates of duty paid between 1880 and 1958. For more information about records held by State Records NSW see Archives in Brief No. 29.