Administering an estate can be challenging. It is an experience that we may encounter only once or twice in our lives, and often at a time of great personal distress.
Our experienced team can guide you and help you to navigate quickly and efficiently through the many small tasks that estate administration consists of.
Acting as the Executor of a will can be a demanding and lengthy process. Dealing with the paperwork required by banks and superannuation funds, ensuring that all of the necessary organisations and government departments are notified, arranging the sale of furniture, and communicating with demanding beneficiaries can all contribute to make the experience a tumultuous and drawn-out process.
If you have been appointed as an Executor of a will, it is your duty to carry out the terms of the will as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This may include arranging the funeral, applying for probate, correspondence with government agencies, banks, share registries; and other tasks and distributing assets in accordance with the terms of the will. Throughout the process, the Executor must also carefully manage the expectations of beneficiaries and family members. Many estate administration matters can fast become a perfect storm of legal, administrative, and personal obligations. An Executor must be ready to deal with each task as it arises. Ensure that you chose a caring, attentive and experienced lawyer to assist you to navigate through the experience as efficiently as possible.
What is probate?
Probate is the process of establishing the validity of a Will. It is an application to the Supreme Court of Victoria. The Court will require evidence of the assets owned by the deceased as at the date of their death, and will also request evidence to ascertain whether the deceased was of sound mind when they made the Will, that no later Wills were prepared, and that the deceased did not revoke the Will.
I am an Executor, what do I do?
Put simply, an Executor is a person named in the Will and charged with the duty to carry out the last wishes of the deceased.
Duties of an Executor usually involve:
- attending to funeral arrangements;
- locating the last valid Will;
- identifying, collecting and protecting all the assets;
- applying to the Supreme Court for a grant of Probate of the last Will if there are assets in the estate which require production of Probate;
- determining and paying liabilities of the estate;
- lodging tax returns and paying taxes;
- selling assets as required;
- communicating with beneficiaries and distributing the estate within a reasonable time;
- defending the estate when the Will is contested;
- continuing administration and holding assets on trust if the Executor is also appointed to as a trustee of the estate.
Your first task is to locate the last Will of the deceased. The Will might include information about the type of funeral arrangements that the deceased wanted – you should be aware that these wishes are not binding on you, but serve as a useful guide. There may also be information in the Will as to whether the deceased had a prepaid funeral or funeral insurance.
It is a good idea to arrange an appointment with a lawyer at this stage and discuss the next steps.
The funeral home will attend to obtaining the death certificate for you. Once the death certificate issues from the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, your lawyer will be able to make contact with the appropriate authorities and asset-holders, to confirm the assets and labilities of the deceased, and to ensure that regular payments (such as pensions) are stopped as appropriate.
The more information you can provide to your lawyer regarding the deceased’s assets, the better. Bank statements can reveal a wealth of useful information.
The asset-holders will respond to your lawyer with their requirements for release of the assets. They Will also advise whether it will be necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate. If not, the assets can be collected, the bills and debts paid, and the assets distributed in accordance with the Will. If Probate is required, then your lawyer will prepare the necessary supporting documents which will need to be signed by you and submitted to the Supreme Court in order to obtain a Grant of Probate.
If you do not want to act as Executor, it may be possible for you to renounce your role. You must do this before taking any action consistent with your role as Executor – if you have ‘intermeddled’ in the estate, it may not be possible for you to renounce. You should seek legal advice about what is involved and then make a decision whether you are the right person to take on the role of Executor.
Our lawyers will take the time to explain the process and timeframes to you, and will be upfront with you in regards to costs and disbursements. We understand that everyone prefers to receive information in different ways. Regardless of whether you prefer a regular telephone call, a weekly email, or simply a posted letter at key stages of the process, we will keep you informed; and help you to understand the process and attain a timely outcome.
- All grants of representation, including probate and letters of administration
- Estate administration where no grant is required
- Application by surviving proprietors
- Estate disputes and contests
I wish to acknowledge the splendid work Vesna did for me on the estate of my late friend. Over many weeks she methodically and patiently handled various bureaucratic processes to reach the end point.
I have now had two experiences with Robertson Hyetts staff here in Castlemaine, I commend you for running a superb solicitor’s organisation. And, I categorically state that I will use no other firm in future matters.
Thank you for stunning help in a very troubling time for me.
For legal advice that protects your interests phone now for an appointment: Bendigo 03 5434 6666; Castlemaine 03 5472 1588 or Melbourne by appointment.