Administration of an estate are the processes that are followed after someone has passed on and their estate has to be managed and distributed according to their Will. It can be difficult on everyone involved, as out of necessity these processes generally occur during a period of mourning.
Most of what happens in administering an estate is undertaken by the executor. They deal with the third parties involved, such as government departments, banks, courts etc, as well as maintaining contact with the beneficiaries. An executor is able to seek the assistance of a lawyer to handle the administration of the estate on their behalf. This may be advisable if you are in this position and feeling uncomfortable with the level of responsibility and liability you suddenly hold.
The process of estate administration involves several steps, some of which will depend on the details of the estate. Generally administration of the estate will require the following:
- Locating the will;
- Obtaining a grant of Probate;
- Considering an Application for Letters of Administration if there is no Will;
- Discussions with the beneficiaries, these will be ongoing during the process;
- Identifying and securing the assets of the estate. This may involve selling real estate or shares;
- Paying any debts left behind, as well as other costs such as taxes or funeral costs;
- Resolving any disputes or challenges regarding the will;
- Determining any superannuation entitlements and completing any processes to release these funds to the estate or the nominated people;
- Distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries and transferring any gifts;
- Finalising any financial matters such as any filing outstanding tax returns and other tax matters for the estate, and registering the death on any jointly owned assets, etc.
This process will be different if there is no Will left behind by the deceased.
The process of administering an estate can take a few months, or much longer, depending on the specific assets within the estate. A dispute about the distribution of the estate can significantly prolong the administration process.
After the estate has been administered, some assets may remain. This commonly occurs when one or more of the beneficiaries is under eighteen at the time. In this situation a trustee will hold these assets for the beneficiary. The trustee is bound to follow the terms in the will while holding these assets and cannot use them for themselves. The Executor is generally automatically appointed as trustee.
To find out more about what is involved in administering an estate or for assistance in administering an estate, contact our office on (07) 3343 9522 or (07) 5446 1745 or through our contact us service here.