Find out more about the legal steps necessary to manage a deceased estate, what documents are required and how important the role of the executor is in the process. After a loved one passes, it can be difficult and challenging, particularly when faced with administering a deceased estate during a period of grief. So it’s worth knowing the basic steps to administer a deceased estate. Let’s take a closer look.
What Steps to Take After Someone Dies?When a person dies, specific legal procedures need to be followed. Understanding the process beforehand can help to relieve some of the stress. The following steps will help ensure that the estate can be distributed to beneficiaries quickly and effectively.
Obtain A Medical Certificate Stating Cause Of DeathImmediately after a person has died, a doctor must confirm the death and issue a medical certificate stating the cause. When a death involves suspicious circumstances or if the cause of death is unknown, then the doctor should notify the police. A coronial investigation may begin and an inquest to determine the cause of death.
Check If They Are An Organ DonorIf the deceased had wished to donate their organs, hospital staff can check the organ donor registry and begin the process to donate. It is crucial to proceed quickly as the donation process will need to occur shortly after the person’s death.
Obtain A Death Certificate From The NSW Registry Of Births, Deaths And MarriagesThe next step is to obtain a death certificate from the New South Wales registry of births, deaths and marriages. The doctor, executor, or next of kin will need to register the certificate with the registry within seven days. The death certificate can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks. The funeral director can obtain the death certificate on your behalf in some cases. The death certificate will need to be certified by a JP, as organisations who request a copy will need to be provided with a certified copy.
Determine Whether The Deceased Left A WillThe valid will of a deceased person is a legal document that details their wishes concerning their estate distribution after they die. Searching for a will occurs before arranging the deceased’s funeral, as there may be specific details about funeral arrangements that need to be followed. Wills can be located in several different locations, and a family member or executor should check with the deceased’s lawyer, accountant, or bank to find a copy. Distributing the deceased’s estate as per the instructions in the will comes later as there are several crucial steps to follow beforehand.
Arrange The FuneralAfter the death certificate has been issued and the deceased has a will, the executor can begin making funeral arrangements. The will may contain wishes of the deceased relating to the funeral, for example, details of where to hold the service or a specific type of memorial. Check if the deceased person had a prepaid burial plot or request to be buried with other deceased family members. When there is no will, a relative of the deceased or a close friend is responsible for the funeral arrangements. Funeral expenses can be costly, so checking the deceased’s personal papers is crucial. There could be a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance policy to cover the funeral costs. The person arranging the funeral will need to obtain an invoice from the funeral director to arrange payment from the deceased’s bank account.
Identify The Assets And LiabilitiesAfter someone dies, all the assets and liabilities are called their estate. A family member or executor must determine the value of the assets previously owned by the deceased such as bank accounts, property, money/cash, superannuation, life insurance policies, shares and stocks. As well as establishing all of the deceased’s assets they will also need to obtain details of all of the deceased’s debts. They may include loans, mortgages, credit cards, outstanding bills, and any outstanding income tax owing to the Australian taxation office. The process may involve writing to creditors or asset holders to obtain details and their requirements for release. Accuracy and maintaining comprehensive records is crucial as it affects the value of the deceased person’s estate and the beneficiaries’ entitlements.
Apply For Letters Of Administration Or A Grant Of Probate?Once the executor or next of kin has established the value of the deceased estate, they can apply for letters of administration or a grant of probate through the Supreme Court of NSW. If the dead person had a will, then a grant of probate would be required for the executor to administer the estate. The legal document from the Supreme Court authenticates the last will and provides the executor with authority to manage the deceased’s assets. If there was no will, then the person appointed to manage the estate will need to obtain letters of administration to grant them the authority to access the assets of the deceased estate. The application for letters of administration or a grant of probate should be submitted to the Supreme Court within six months after death.
Gather In The AssetsGathering in the assets means turning all of the deceased’s physical assets into accessible funds to pay the debts of the deceased, finance funeral arrangements and become part of the estate for distribution to beneficiaries. Gathering in assets can include any of the following:
- Closing bank accounts
- Cashing in life insurance policies
- Selling or transferring real estate
- Obtaining death benefits from superannuation policies
- Selling or transferring shares to beneficiaries