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Over a third of all Australians die without making a will, and many valid wills contain insufficient information to easily identify beneficiaries. As such, a high number of estates are frequently paid to the state as 'unclaimed monies'.
Unclaimed monies are managed by state or federal government bodies. Many states maintain searchable online databases of their holdings, making it easier for Australians to identify these funds.
Each state or territory within Australia also has a 'Public Trustee' or equivalent, who typically act as 'administrator of last resort' within their state, administering estates of those Australians who died without a will or known next of kin. These Public Trustees which offers a range of other estate administration services (to execute estates with a will, for example) as well as various protection services for vulnerable members of the community. Public Trustees - and other Australian trustee organisations - tend to work to fees and expenses deductible from the estate before distribution to beneficiaries.
Most Public Trustees maintain their own teams of genealogical researchers to assist them in locating heirs. The largest of these is State Trustees, which acts as Victoria's public trustee and maintains over a dozen specialist researchers.
Australian-based genealogical firms and probate researchers co-operate with similar organisations across the world and can provide useful contacts. Their services are typically fee based, although some work on a contingency fee basis where their costs are met from a beneficiary's entitlement rather than the estate as a whole.
Executors and Administrators of a deceased's estate tend to be residents of the state where the deceased lived. Intestacy laws differ from state to state, and some states have either recently changed their laws or are in the process of reviewing them. Beneficiaries of Australian estates tend to be based in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Eastern Europe.
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