24 Sep Guide to dealing with deceased estates
Common questions about deceased estates and what executors need to do:
Many people do not know where to start after the death of a loved one. Family members or close relatives will often not know where the last will is. Common questions about how to organise the probate are answered here:
Was there a will?
A Supreme Court probate office search can be undertaken to see if someone has had probate granted after a will is registered/proven. A solicitor can do this for you and let you know what steps to take to put a freeze on any distributions of inheritance until you have had a chance to challenge the will. Or if you are the executor looking for the will you can get assistance with locating the last will.
If no one has applied for probate and you are the primary executor of the last known will, then you can apply for probate. If you have made all due searches but there is no will, provided you have standing as either next of kin or in some other capacity, you can also apply as administrator.
How do I deal with outstanding bills of the deceased?
If you are the executor of a will or administrator of a deceased estate you can find information about how to deal with bills and utilities fairly quickly. Providers of utilities and other services which you will get common household bills for, normally have a deceased estate section or a policy with dealing with executors. For example the local council for outstanding rates, the tax office for outstanding tax, and all banks have a dedicated deceased estates section. Vic Roads have policies and procedures for transferring vehicles and there are other providers eg: Telstra and phone companies, share trading such as Commsec and Link Market which can let you know what to do with the account when the account holder has died. If bills cannot be paid until the estate is wound up you can make a request request to freeze action on bills or piling up interest, until the probate has been granted and the estate is capable of paying the debts. You will find most providers and agencies will agree to such requests.
Generally where land is involved or substantial sums of bank funds, the authorities will not transfer or release property without first seeing an original or certified Grant of Probate.
What is involved in getting a Grant of Probate?
Basically this involves proving to the Supreme Court probate registry that you are entitled to be the executor or administrator of the estate.
You do this by either by proving a valid will, or if there is no will, proving that you are entitled to apply as administrator or next of kin and completing the relevant application and lodging with the Supreme Court with the fee.
How can a solicitor help me?
If you are executor of a will or likely to be an administrator of a deceased estate, a solicitor can sort out the whole process for you, deal with creditors, call in assets and apply for the grant of probate or letters of administration on your behalf and even assist with wind up of the estate and distribution to named beneficiaries. The solicitor’s fees should come out of the estate, or if you have paid for the fees, you should get reimbursed from the estate for the legal costs, like any other cost of the estate.
(c) Maria Rigoli
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