We take a lot of enquiries from family members who have been appointed as an Executor for the estate of a loved one who due to the modest size of the estate or simplicity of the assets do not necessarily need legal assistance to complete the administration, but do need initial advice about their obligations and the process that needs to take place to fulfill their appointment.
Now every Estate will be a little bit different, and the following list of three ‘administration basics’ should not be treated as an all encompassing guide to being an executor. However, the hope is that it will give you enough information to decide where to start.
1. The time limits
There is an overall time limit of 12 years in which a person may bring an action in relation to an estate matter. Practically speaking however, once an estate has been distributed to beneficiaries, you become limited in what you can access through any action. So one should always pay more attention to the “6 and 9 month” time limits!
In Queensland, you have 6 months in which to give notice of any intention to claim on an estate, and 9 months to actually lodge that claim. If an executor/s properly distributes an estate’s assets after these periods have elapsed, there is no recourse to accessing those assets now in the hands of the beneficiaries, by someone who brings an action outside of these time limits (except in some very limited and exceptional circumstances).
2. Sorting out the assets
So the main job of the Executor is to step into the life of the deceased and ‘tidy up all the loose ends’ so to speak. This generally includes at least the following:
- Notifying all parties that the deceased had regular or irregular contact with of their passing (i.e. Medicare, service providers, insurers, Qld Transport, etc);
- Organising release of funds from the deceased’s bank accounts (making sure you keep all of the estate related funds separate from your own personal accounts, etc);
- Checking for any funeral/life insurance or superannuation policies;
- Paying any outstanding accounts; and
- Getting an accountant to check on the deceased’s tax affairs and if appropriate prepare the final return and estate tax returns.
3. Distributing the estate
The last step in the administration process is then to take what is left after all assets have been called in, and all debts and liabilities paid from the estate funds, and divide it between the named beneficiaries as directed in the will.
Often there will be factors that make the process more cumbersome, such as where Probate is required to be obtained, assets exist in more than one jurisdictions, properties or shares need to be transferred or testamentary trusts have been created. If you are not sure what you should be doing, asking for help is the best way to avoid inadvertently putting yourself or your family at risk.
Turner Freeman Lawyers – Wills & Estates specialists
To discuss your estate planning needs or to arrange your appointment to find out more about our estate administration services, please do not hesitate to contact Turner Freeman Lawyers Wills and Estates Team on (07) 3025 9000.
Our Queensland offices are in Brisbane, Logan, North Lakes, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns.