What To Do When Someone Dies In NSW

What To Do When Someone Dies In NSW

What To Do When Someone Dies In NSW

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 Death

Immediately 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 Donor

If 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 Marriages

The 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 Will

The 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 Funeral

After 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 Liabilities

After 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 Assets

Gathering 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

Discharge The Deceased’s Debts

Once all assets have been gathered, the executor will need to finalise all of the deceased person’s debts. The deceased’s debts may include completing outstanding tax returns and paying debts and bills such as loans, utilities and credit cards.

Distribute The Estate To The Beneficiaries

After outstanding debts and taxes have been paid, the deceased’s estate distribution to beneficiaries can begin. An executor or administrator must administer a deceased estate according to the law and as per the wishes stated in the deceased’s final will.

When there is no will, the estate will be distributed as per intestacy rules, which means when someone dies intestate, their assets are given to their next of kin.

An estate should not be distributed until at least six months after death. This will allow any eligible people to dispute the estate. Depending on the circumstances, the earlier release of funds may be possible in hardship cases.

Estate administration can be complex. Therefore obtaining expert and unbiased advice from an experienced lawyer is recommended.

Family Provision Claim

When an eligible person feels that they have been left out of the will or not adequately provided for, they can apply for a family provision claim through the Supreme court. The Succession Act allows eligible people to question the validity of the will. For example, the will maker may have been unduly influenced when drawing up the will. The court will consider the applicant’s circumstances, character, and conduct and request resolution of the dispute via mediation sessions.

The Executor’s Role

When dealing with deceased estates, the role of an executor or administrator is pivotal, as they are the only one with the legal authority to deal with the administration of the estate. A grant of probate from the court acknowledges the executor as the person responsible for ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are adhered to.

The person appointed does not have to accept the role. They can file a renunciation with the court.

The executor is responsible for the entire process from finding the will, arranging the funeral to managing the deceased’s property and belongings, managing all of the financial affairs and distributing the estate.

Summary

When a person dies, specific legal procedures need to be followed. Firstly, their doctor will need to confirm the death and issue a certificate stating the cause. The next step is to obtain a death certificate from the New South Wales registry. The executor will need to locate the last will, arrange the funeral and determine the deceased’s assets and liabilities.

If there were a will, then a grant of probate would be required for the executor to administer the estate.

Once the assets have been gathered, the executor will need to finalise all financial affairs, including paying any outstanding bills, after which distribution of the deceased’s estate can begin.

Estate administration can be complex. Therefore obtaining expert and unbiased advice from an experienced lawyer is recommended.

FAQs

1. What Do You Need To Do When Someone Dies in NSW?

When a person dies, their doctor will need to confirm the death and issue a certificate stating the cause. The next step is to obtain a death certificate from the New South Wales registry of births, deaths and marriages. The executor will need to locate the last valid will, arrange the funeral and determine the deceased’s assets and liabilities. Letters of administration or a grant of probate may need to be applied for at the Supreme court. Once all assets have been gathered, the executor will need to pay all of the deceased person’s debts and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.

2. What Happens With An Estate When Someone Dies?

When a person dies, the executor or legal personal representative must administer the estate according to the law, and the wishes stated in the deceased’s final will. Once all of the assets have been gathered, the executor will need to pay all the creditors. Once all outstanding bills and taxes have been paid, distribution of the deceased’s estate to beneficiaries can begin.

3. Who Needs To Be Notified When Someone Dies?

After receiving a death certificate, it is vital to notify all places that the deceased had dealings with. This can include; the electoral commission, tax department, banks, government departments, local council, utility companies, telecommunication companies and memberships or clubs that the person was affiliated with.

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