Estate Administration

When a loved one dies, there is often confusion as to what to do next and when it must be done.  During such an emotional time, it is important that you receive sound and compassionate advice.  The lawyers at Sargent Baldwin will make the process as stress free and cost effective as possible.

Our experienced staff can assist you with administering the estate from start to finish including:

  • Advising on the terms of the will
  • Identifying assets
  • Calling in assets
  • Acquiring Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
  • Dealing with liabilities
  • Executor protection and advice
  • Distribution to beneficiaries
  • Managing disgruntled beneficiaries
  • Disputing Wills

We set out below questions that we are commonly asked by our clients:

An Executor’s job is to collect the Estate assets, pay the Estate debts and then distribute the Estate in accordance with the terms of the Will. Sometimes the Executor will be required to defend the Estate from various claims from debtors of the deceased or from the deceased’s family members who may commence court proceedings against the Estate to dispute the terms of the Will. In those circumstances, the Executors role is to uphold the terms of the Will and to maximise the value of the Estate so far as is reasonable. Sometimes an Executor will be forced to consider settlement of a claim where that claim appears to be strong to avoid significant costs to the Estate.

If the deceased died without making a Will it means that they died “intestate.”  In an intestate Estate, the Estate will be distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy. The Succession Act and the Uniform Civil Procedure rules determine who can act to administer the Estate and also how the Estate is to be distributed. As a general guide, the deceased’s spouse, children and parents will be the most likely to be required to act to administer the Estate of a deceased person who died intestate.

A Grant of Probate is a document which is issued by the Supreme Court confirming that the Executor may distribute the Estate assets as per the Will. It accordingly offers protection for an Executor where the Executor wishes to distribute an estate. Some banks and financial institutions will require an Executor to obtain a Grant of Probate before they will close the deceased’s bank accounts and pay the funds to the Estate.

You will need to discuss this direct with the funeral home, however if there is money in the deceased’s bank accounts, the bank will generally pay the funeral tax invoice should it be provided to them with a copy of the Death Certificate and Will. Otherwise the deceased’s bank accounts will be frozen upon the bank be notified of the deceased’s passing. If there are insufficient funds in the deceased’s bank accounts then the responsibility for payment will usually fall on the person who organises the funeral. If someone pays the funeral account, they are entitled to be reimbursed from the estate for that money before payment to any beneficiaries is made.

If you are asked for a copy of the Will (or a prior Will) by a person named in the Will (or prior Will) of the deceased, or by a member of the deceased’s immediate family, a copy of the Will must be provided pursuant to section 33Z of the Succession Act. There is little point refusing to disclose a copy of the Will as it will merely create suspicion that you have something to hide and they will more than likely seek legal advice in which case you will be required to disclose pursuant to section 33Z.

No.  The Executor has the ability to appoint any solicitor that they choose. It is best to nominate a solicitor with whom the Executor feels comfortable and is experienced in estate administration matters.

  • Are the assets secured?
  • Assets insured?
  • Inventory list of assets held.
  • Original Will located.
  • Previous Wills located (in the event of dispute).
  • Original Death Certificate ordered – normally via funeral home.
  • Bank account details located.
  • Investment accounts located.
  • Share certificates – statements located
  • Life insurance/funeral insurance policies located.
  • Superannuation details established.
  • Accommodation bond paid – if deceased resided in a retirement village.
  • Copy of agreement with retirement village (if any).
  • Marriage certificate of deceased
  • Death certificate if first executor deceased.
  • Vehicle registration details (including boats/caravans and trailers).
  • Certificate of title for property

Sargent Baldwin Lawyers have many years experience in dealing with estate matters and a happy to discuss the above with you at at a time that suits you. We endeavour to make this difficult and emotional process as stress free as it possibly can be. We welcome your enquiry.