Your complete guide to probate, state-by-state

Apr 13, 2023
To avoid confusion later, it is advisable to educate yourself if you are designated as a loved one's executor. Source: Getty Images.

Are you the executor of a loved one’s estate? Your role will almost certainly involve distributing their assets after they’ve gone, as well as possibly paying debts or overseeing the sale of their property and other belongings.

For anyone not deeply enmeshed in the estate management sector, it can all be a daunting task. And there are a number of steps required by law before you even start untangling the deceased’s finances. In some cases, that means obtaining a grant of probate.

We help you get to grips with the process of probate and explain how things differ state by state.

What is a grant of probate?

The simplest explanation is that a grant of probate means that the Supreme Court has recognised a will to be legally valid. The grant is the court’s document that rubber stamps that a person is authorised to deal with the estate of the deceased.

In some cases, executors may require a grant of probate before they can administer an estate, often because the deceased has left a large amount of money or shares that must be released by a financial institution to the executor for distribution. Banks and other finance providers may request probate before undertaking such a transaction and each institution will be able to advise if the size of the transaction is one that requires probate.

Probate may also be needed if, for example, the will has been contested or if the deceased’s real estate is being transferred to a beneficiary.

To make things even more complicated, the rules on which specific instances require probate differ from state-to-state. So to help you wrap your head around things, here’s a quick guide to the circumstances in which probate may or may not be required in your location. Don’t forget, though, that it’s important to seek professional legal advice to confirm the facts in your personal situation.


In Queensland, probate is not legally required; however, there are several reasons why a personal representative may choose to obtain it. These reasons include:

  1. Personal protection – In case there is another Will and the personal representative should not have dealt with the estate’s assets, probate would safeguard the personal representative from personal liability and any claim of “intermeddling” with the deceased’s estate.
  2. Dealing with others – Certain entities that hold the deceased’s property, such as banks, share registries, superannuation funds, and aged care homes, may not release those assets until probate has been granted. This is to ensure that the assets are being handed over to the right person with appropriate authorization.

If the amount involved is relatively minor or if most of the deceased’s assets are owned jointly with someone else as joint tenants, probate might not be necessary. It’s always wise to ask the relevant financial institution whether you need a grant of probate to request a financial transaction.

New South Wales

In NSW, there’s no statutory requirement for probate to be obtained in every case but it is required in some instances. As such, it’s wise for the executor to ask asset holders such as banks whether they require probate to permit the transfer of assets – just as is advisable in Queensland.

In NSW, there are some usual assets and circumstances where probate is generally necessary. These include:

  1. Bank accounts with a balance of over $50,000, although this may differ depending on the financial institution.
  2. Ownership of a house or land.
  3. Share portfolios worth more than $15,000.
  4. A considerable superannuation fund is payable to the estate.

Probate isn’t required if assets are jointly held with a person who has survived the deceased. However, if real estate, for example, was held solely by the deceased or a share of the real estate was held by the deceased as a tenant-in-common with another individual, a grant of probate will be required in order for the estate to be able to handle the property.


Under Victorian jurisdiction, estates are often administered without a grant of probate. Banks and insurance companies may release funds without probate if the value of the funds is low and there are no undue complications to the will. However, if an executor is required to prove their title to assets of the deceased, in Victoria probate is then required.

If the deceased owned real estate either solely or as a tenant-in-common, probate is always required. But if assets were jointly held, a death certificate should be enough to transfer funds to the surviving joint holder, although an application to the Land Titles Office will be needed to transfer property.

Super trustees will often pay funds directly to a nominee, however, if the deceased’s nomination is invalid, they may choose to transfer to a specific person or the deceased’s legal representative. In such cases, the executor will need to contact the super fund to understand the terms of release.

South Australia

While a grant is not legally required in every case in SA, some organisations will require probate to release funds, while others won’t require probate. Again, banks and insurance companies may release funds if the amount involved is relatively low and there are no complications so, as before, it’s wise to ascertain each organisation or institution’s specific requirements.

Property owned solely by the deceased or as a tenant-in-common will require probate before being transferred, while that which is jointly owned requires only a death certificate before being transferred to the surviving owner.

As in Victoria, super trustees will often pay funds directly to a nominee, however, if the deceased’s nomination is invalid, they may choose to transfer to a specific person or the deceased legal’s representative. In such cases, the executor will need to contact the super fund to understand the terms of release.

Australian Capital Territory

In the ACT, when the deceased was the sole owner of land or with another person as a tenant-in-common, probate is required. However, as in the states, other institutions such as banks and share registries will have their own thresholds for requiring probate. Non-estate assets such as property owned as joint tenants, super and life insurance don’t require probate where a binding nominee has been named.


In most cases, probate is necessary to administer an estate in Tasmania, particularly when dealing with large sums of money, valuable items that aren’t personal goods, shares and trust funds. Probate isn’t usually necessary, however, to deal with assets such as joint bank accounts, insurance payments under the sum of $10,000, real estate owned under joint tenancy, car ownership and personal goods.

Northern Territory

In the NT executors generally require a grant of probate to undertake most administration required of the role.

Western Australia

Executors usually need to apply for a grant of probate if the deceased had assets in WA at the time of their death; these assets include bank accounts, shares or real estate in the deceased’s name or if they owned real estate as a tenant-in-common.

It is likely that a grant of probate will be necessary if the deceased:

  1. Had bank accounts solely in their name with a balance of approximately $20,000 (the threshold varies with different financial institutions).
  2. Owned real estate as tenants in common with another party.
  3. Owned shares with a market value exceeding $10,000; or
  4. Had superannuation entitlements or life insurance payable to their estate.

If real estate or bank accounts were jointly held, however, probate is unlikely to be required because the assets can be transferred to the surviving party with only a death certificate as proof. Also, if the deceased’s only other assets were personal possessions or their only property (other than personal possessions) was a car or a motorbike, probate isn’t usually required.


* This story was originally published on January 2, 2022. 


IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up