Probate & Deceased Estates

Probate & Deceased Estates

When you lose a loved one, in addition to the stress of dealing with the loss, you may have to take steps to administer the estate (deal with their assets and liabilities). We can assist in guiding you through the process.

Deceased Estate

‘Deceased Estate’ is the term used to describe all of a person’s property and assets after they have died. Those assets may include real estate, cash in the bank, vehicles, shares and stocks, as well as household and personal belongings.

Whether some property and belongings will form part of a deceased estate may depend on whether it was owned jointly or not at the time of death and the nature of the property itself.

The way a person’s estate is distributed after they die is determined by the terms of their Will if they have one, or according to the rules of intestacy if they do not have a Will.

There are also some assets over which people may have control whilst they are alive which form part of their estate after they have died (such as superannuation or life insurance)

What is Probate?

A Grant of Probate is essentially a certificate granted by the Supreme Court validating the Will of a deceased person. Probate is applied for by the executor, the person nominated in the Will to administer the deceased’s estate according to the Will.

Letters of Administration

If a person dies without a valid will, the situation is called ‘intestacy’.

When somebody dies intestate, an application will be made to the Supreme Court for Letters of Administration. Once somebody receives Letters of Administration from the Supreme Court, the estate will be distributed to the deceased’s spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings in accordance with the rules in the Administration Act 1903.

Administration of the Estate

Once a person holds a Probate Certificate or Letters of Administration they are then able to gather all of the deceased’s assets and property and administer the estate according to law.

Before distributing any property to beneficiaries, an executor or administrator is responsible for paying the debts of the estate. Payment of funeral expenses and administrative expenses are also to be made before any other payments from the estate.

Depending on what is in the estate, the executor may also need to safeguard any income, invest money not currently required, and insure property. Accordingly, if you are an executor, it is a good idea to get some legal advice on what you will need to do and steps that might be taken to maximise the value of assets. This can be even more important in circumstances in which there is an estate dispute, requiring a delay before the distribution of the balance of any property to beneficiaries.

Duty and taxation on the Estate

If a Will is adjusted by agreement between the beneficiaries, the agreement may be subject to duty under the Duties Act 2008.

We recommend seeking advice before making any decisions to alter distributions of property to avoid unexpected costs.

Executors and beneficiaries should also seek appropriate taxation advice for their situation.

When someone you love dies, there are many issues to deal with in addition to grieving their loss. Whether you would like a lawyer to manage all aspects of dealing with the administrative requirements or whether you simply require initial brief advice, we can help.