Help for an executor administering a deceased estate

What is my role as the executor of a Will?

If you have been appointed as the executor of a Will, it is your job, as the most trusted person of the deceased, to make sure that their wishes, as expressed in their last Will and Testament, are carried out. In the role of executor, you are called upon to:

Obtain an original Death Certificate from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (the Funeral Director can arrange this for you)

Locate and identify the details of the deceased’s finances and estate assets (this is usually the most time consuming duty of the executor)

Arrange for the assets of the estate to be released, valued, secured and insured. In most cases a Grant of Probate is needed from the court before this can happen.

Pay estate debts and in many cases file a tax return for the deceased

Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries according to the wishes of the deceased person as expressed in their will. This involves preparing a distribution report for all of the beneficiaries detailing the deceased’s assets, how much money you received from each asset you sold and what debts you paid. You must give a copy of the distribution report to each of the beneficiaries when you pay them their share of the estate.

What is Probate?

In most cases a Grant of Probate is needed from the court in order to allow the release and transfer of the deceased’s assets. A Grant of Probate declares that the Will is valid and that you, as the executor, have the right to administer the estate. The cost of obtaining a Grant of Probate is determined by the total value of the Estate and is charged in accordance with the Supreme Court of NSW scale. There are several steps that need to be undertaken in anticipation of a Grant. In summary, you must:

Publish your intention to apply for Probate on the Supreme Court of NSW’s website lawlink.nsw.gov.au

Apply for Probate by lodging all of the necessary forms at the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court. You will need to lodge the death certificate, a property inventory, an executor’s affidavit (a sworn statement that you will administer the estate according to the law) and the original Will.

What do I do if I don’t want to act as the executor?

You may be able to hand over this responsibility by signing a formal ‘renunciation’ and filing it in the Supreme Court of NSW but you should do it as soon as possible, before you undertake any of the duties of executor. A solicitor can help you do this

Do I have to employ a solicitor or can I execute the Will by myself?

You can undertake the role of executor without engaging a solicitor but it’s a good idea to consult a solicitor to make sure you get it right. Fulfilling your responsibilities can be challenging and time consuming without some understanding of estate law and finance and as executor, you may be personally liable for the decisions you make.

What will a solicitor actually do for me?

Inform you of your rights and responsibilities as an executor

Prepare and assist you to complete the documents needed to apply for Probate

Help you identify, find and deal with the deceased’s debts and assets

Advise you about the legal order in which debts must be paid and assets distributed

Make sure you are advised of any tax liability

Assist you in drawing up a statement of account and distribution report for the beneficiaries

What if I can’t find a Will?

Firstly you should thoroughly search the deceased person’s personal papers and effects.

If you are unable to find the Will, your lawyer can make searches and enquiries on your behalf.

There is a legal order of distribution of an estate in situations where there is no Will. Your solicitor can advise you of this order and assist you with the process of administering the estate under these circumstances

How long will it take?

Fourteen days after you have published your intention to apply for Probate on the Supreme Court Online Registry website, you can then apply for Probate by lodging the right forms at the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court.

Once your application for a Grant of Probate has been lodged it usually takes about four weeks for the court to issue the Grant.

The deceased’s money and possessions can be distributed in line with the Will from six months after the deceased person’s death.

Before the distribution you must publish a notice through the Supreme Court online registry, telling anyone with a claim against the estate to notify you of the details of their claim within 30 days.

Our experienced and approachable lawyers at Aaron Legal can help you through all of the processes involved in executing a Will, from identifying assets through to the final distribution of the estate. We understand that you as the executor may be taking on these often emotionally demanding responsibilities at a time when you have experienced significant loss yourself, with the passing of a close friend or relative. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for legal advice and assistance.

With Aaron Legal you get care and personal attention. You get a high degree of expertise and you get a result you can live with.

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