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What is estate administration?

Estate administration is the process of winding up a deceased estate. It may involve locating all property, paying off any debts, selling assets and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

If you’re appointed executor of a deceased estate or administrator of an intestate estate, you may feel like you’ve got a big job ahead of you. You also may feel concerned about meeting all the legal requirements that come with estate administration. The great news is that we’re here to guide you.

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Where there is no Will or no valid Will:

In this scenario, the Supreme Court appoints an administrator to wind up the estate. The administrator performs a similar job to an executor, but there is no Will to direct an administrator on the distribution of the estate. The administrator must distribute the estate according to South Australian intestacy laws.

When there is a valid Will:

If a person dies after they’ve made a valid Will, the executor has the job of establishing whether probate is required and, if so, making an application to the Supreme Court. They must then wind up the deceased person’s estate and make distributions to the beneficiaries according to the Will.

People working together at a table

What is probate?

Probate is the process of proving a Will. It’s the Supreme Court’s way of recognising that a Will is valid.

Probate allows the executor to wind up the deceased’s estate and distribute the assets.

Where there’s a valid Will, the deceased’s property (usually money and assets) can’t be sold or transferred without a grant of probate. There are some exceptions to this which generally only apply if the estate is small.

It’s usually up to the executor of a Will to organise the grant of probate, which requires the original Will and some other documents. If you’re an executor, we can sort out the application for you. We can also guide you through the distribution process.

How long does it take to get a grant of probate or letters of administration?

Gavel on a desk

How long will depend on the available information.

The Court must ask a range of questions, including whether there was a Will, and was it valid. It must examine the Will and be satisfied that it’s the complete document. It must identify the executor or any possible administrators.

Sometimes, it can take multiple applications to work through these things. It can be even more difficult if you don’t have legal help.

We’re seasoned experts in estate administration and can help you through every stage of the process. All you need to do is call to arrange an obligation free first interview.

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Frequently asked questions

Wills may be found amongst important papers, at banks, in safety deposit boxes, with their lawyer or accountant, or even with the Public Trustee.

Sometimes, it’s a challenge to work out whether the deceased had a Will and where to find it. The deceased’s computer may have some clues about the location of the Will. Or there may be invoices for legal fees that indicate a Will.

The Law Society has a Wills Register that records the location of many original Wills in South Australia. It’s often a good source of information.

We’ve helped many clients locate original Wills. We can help you too. If you’re struggling to find a Will, contact us to discuss your situation.

Superannuation doesn’t form part of a deceased estate.

Many people believe they can deal with their superannuation in their Will, but the truth is that a superannuation fund may not distribute death benefits to the estate.

Without a valid Binding Death Benefit Nomination, the trustee of your superannuation fund has a discretion: they can decide whether to pay your superannuation entitlements to your estate or to any of your dependents, for example, your spouse or children.

So, your dependents may need to make a claim for a superannuation death benefit and prove that they were dependent upon you at the time of your death. This is why it’s usually a good idea to have made a Binding Death Benefit Nomination. It may save your loved ones a lot of time and heartache after you’ve passed away.

If you have any questions about superannuation death benefits and your dependents, we can help.

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