What Is Deceased Estate Administration?

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What Is Deceased Estate Administration?

Written by: Karlene Wightman l Legal Team


We are often asked by our clients:

What does the term ‘deceased estate’ actually mean?

The phrase ‘deceased estate’ is a term used to describe the assets owned by an individual when they die.  A ‘deceased estate’ can be made up of assets such as residential property, bank accounts, shares and other investments.  In some cases, it can also include superannuation benefits.

What Do You Do When Someone Passes Away?

The death of a loved one is a very emotional, and sometimes traumatic, event in our lives.  It is quite often the case that you will be dealing with unknown territory as you have never experienced a death in the family before.  Other times, while you have experienced a death in the family, you will not have been appointed as the person responsible for dealing with the deceased estate.  It is therefore often the case that, after the death of a loved one, the first question on your mind will be “What do I do now?”

There are a number of steps in the process, so making initial contact with a lawyer is often the best approach.

Step One: Is There a Will + Who Is The Executor?

The first question that you need to ask is: “Does my loved one have a Will?”

If the answer is yes, the next question is “Where do I find it?”

If you can answer both of those questions, you then need to read the Will to determine who has been appointed as the Executor.  This is a very important question, as it is the executor who oversees the estate administration.  If you are not appointed as Executor, you have limited rights.

What happens though if you cannot find a Will?  You have hunted high and low and still have come up with nothing!  This is not the end of the world, but does require immediate family members to obtain advice from a lawyer before they proceed any further.

Step Two: Initial Appointment With A Lawyer

Let’s assume that you have found the Will and you (perhaps together with someone else) have been appointed as the Executor or Co-Executor.  You then make an appointment to see your lawyer to determine the next steps.

At this initial meeting, you will be asked to provide asset details for the deceased person.  It is critical that you search through your loved ones personal papers to obtain details of all assets owned by them.  There is no central database to determine what a person owns.  It is all dependent on your instructions in relation to whom we should contact on behalf of the Estate.

It is out goal to make life as easy as possible during such a difficult time, and for this reason we want to take on as much responsibility as we can.  Therefore, once you provide us with the location of the assets, we do the rest!

We will also discuss what jobs are usually undertaken by an Executor, however this is also on individual circumstances.  These include things such as; cancelling a driver’s license, Medicare Card, Private Health Insurance, updating insurance on a property and other more personal aspects of the Estate.

What happens if there isn’t a Will?  The process remains the same.  However, legislation determines who is most appropriate to take on the estate administration, which is based on a number of variables.

Want to know more about the importance of Wills?  Check out this previous blog we have put together: The Importance of Creating A Will.

Step Three: Probate Application + Letters of Administration

Any person who has assets in their sole individual name (valuing approximately $20,000 or more) must have an Executor obtain a Grant of Probate in order to deal with the Estate.

‘Deal with the Estate’ means to sell a property, or sell/transfer shares.

By definition, a Grant of Probate is an application made to the Supreme Court of Victoria asking the Court to formally appoint you as Executor of the Will.  In most cases, this is simply a formality as the Will clearly provides for this and there is no grounds for arguments or appeal.  In limited cases, there will be an argument the Court will need to make a judgement about.

The Registrar of Probates reviews the application and the provides an A4 document which is then submitted to other institutions, which effectively protects banks, share registries and the like, from any liability when they pay funds to the Estate.

A Grant of Letters of Administration is similar, however, the Court decides who should be appointed based on the information provided in the application.  Once the application is granted, the process is the same.

Want to know more details about Probate?  Check out this previous blog we have put together: What Is Probate?

Step Four: Probate Has Been Granted – What Now?

Once the court has granted the application, it is then up to us (being your lawyer) to ensure that all assets holders are given a certified copy of the application and attend to closing the deceased’s accounts.  The funds are, the majority of the time, paid into the lawyers trust account and then, at the direction of the Executor, it paid to the Estate.

How Long Does The Process Take – The Legal Answers

When a loved one dies, the trauma of the process can be made infinitely worse by family members expecting everything to happen ‘yesterday’ and spending their inheritance before they receive it.  It is important for beneficiaries to understand that it can take 12 months or more to finalise a deceased Estate, and it is our job to help you to manage those expectations.  Often, the actions and behaviours of the beneficiaries can be more traumatic than the actual loss of your loved ones.  This is not always the case, but can be something that unsettles many Executors.

Canny Legal + Your Deceased Estate Administration

The loss of a loved one is one of the hardest times in a person’s life.  Making contact with us sooner, rather than later, means we can relieve some unnecessary pressure from you during an already difficult time and ensure that the Estate Administration process runs smoothly from start to finish for all involved.

Get in touch with our team to ensure that the Deceased Estate Administration is done right, from the start.

Principal Lawyer Karlene Wightman standing centre in the picture with one hand on her hip wearing a light pink coloured sleeveless dress with a white and red coloured flower print

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