New Zealand trustee firm Perpetual Guardian is campaigning for the creation of an online national wills registry that’s seen to provide lawyers with an easier way to find wills and connect with people who may be searching for particular wills.
Perpetual Guardian managing director Andrew Barnes said that about 1 million adults in New Zealand have wills with around 150,000 written or rewritten every year, according to a report by the NZ Herald
Furthermore, Barnes said that approximately 30,000 die in New Zealand yearly. Among these, 40 per cent or 12,000 do not have enough assets or do not need a will since their surviving partners inherited their assets. Five per cent or 1,500 have courts decide inheritances because the deceased have enough assets but do not have wills.
“We are starting to see more wills contested - there is no clearly identified sequential record when you make a will,” said Barnes. “How many inappropriate wills are probated?”
In its push for the establishment of the database, the firm has approached law societies and other trustee firms with its plans. Perpetual Guardian wants to eventually have government backing for the project.
The firm, which aims to make wills as normal as KiwiSaver, has more than 140,000 wills which will be transferred to the online registry if it is created.
The register will initially be open only to lawyers but is hoped to ultimately be available for the public’s use for a small fee. Barnes, however, sees the registry as a social responsibility and not as a for-profit venture.
As it is now planned, people won’t have to pay to register or update their wills on the registry. An alert will be sent via email to law firms and trustee companies once a search is made for a particular person.