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Home | Deceased Estates & Disputes | Estate Administration

Deceased Estates

When a person dies, they usually leave behind various assets, debts and outstanding matters. The process of dealing with these issues is called estate administration.

Usually, the executor named in the will administers the estate. If there is no will, or the will did not appoint an executor who is willing and able to act, then it is usually the main beneficiary of the estate who will take on the role of the administrator and administer the estate.

Estate administration involves obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration, calling in the assets, paying debts and then distributing the estate in accordance with the will. If there is no will, then the estate should be distributed in accordance with the law.


What is involved in estate administration?

What is involved in estate administration?

Estate administration is the process of obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration if required, collecting the deceased person’s assets, paying any debts or liabilities, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries.

It is important that records and receipts are kept throughout the process to ensure that all the deceased person’s assets and liabilities have been accounted for.

Executors and administrators are able to seek legal assistance in administering the deceased person’s estate and often instruct a lawyer to administer the estate on their behalf.

What does an executor or administrator do?

What does an executor or administrator do?

The executor is the person or persons chosen by the will-maker ("testator") to be their legal representative after their death. If there is no will or the will did not name an executor who is willing and able to act, then the legal representative is called the 'administrator'.

The executor's main role is to carry out the instructions in the will or, in other words, to 'execute' the will. It is the administrator who has the task of administering the estate in accordance with law.

The duties of an executor and administrator include:

  • finding the original will (if any);
  • organising or assisting with funeral arrangements;
  • protecting and securing the deceased person's assets;
  • obtaining a grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, if required;
  • collecting assets;
  • attending to payment of debts;
  • distributing the assets and managing them in accordance with the will and law;
  • finalising accounts and any tax returns;
  • providing information in litigation.
  • executors and administrators are able to seek assistance with their role, and will often need to speak with a lawyer. Reasonable legal expenses can be paid from the deceased person’s estate.

If you are the executor named in a will or a close relative or beneficiary of the estate of someone who recently died, we are able to provide you with the advice and assistance you require.

How long does it take to administer an estate?

How long does it take to administer an estate?

The answer to this question depends on a variety of issues. Some factors that can influence the time taken to administer an estate include:

  • the number, type and location of assets;
  • the number and type of debts;
  • the existence of a will;
  • the condition of the will (if any);
  • the number, location and age of beneficiaries;
  • whether there are potential claimant/s (i.e. persons who may be entitled to make a claim on the estate);
  • whether the estate is involved in a dispute or litigation;
  • cause of death (in some instances).

For a straightforward estate (i.e. with no legal issues or potential claimants), the whole process of finalising an estate (including obtaining the grant and administering the estate) may take four to six months. Very complex matters, usually those involving disputes or litigation, can sometimes take years.

Where there are potential claimants, it is recommended that the estate not be distributed within six months from the grant of probate or letters of administration. If the executor or administrator distributes the estate early and a person makes a successful claim, the executor or administrator will be held liable for those distributed assets.

How much does it cost?

How much does it cost?

There are two aspects when considering the costs of administering an estate. The first part is the fees to instruct a lawyer, if you so choose, and the second part is Court fees and other disbursements.

When an application for a grant of probate or letters of administration is filed in Court a Court fee must also be paid. The amount payable depends on the gross value of the estate (i.e. the value of the assets before any debts are paid) and is between $750 and $3,000.

Reasonable legal expenses, including Court fees, are payable from the estate and are usually deducted from the estate towards the finalisation of the matter.

The amount of legal fees depends on how much work is involved. The more straightforward the matter, the less work involved and the less fees incurred.

We will provide you with an estimate of our costs and allow you to discuss and ask questions before you decide whether to go ahead.

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