Determining the size of the estate

One of the main jobs to be done when someone dies is to ensure that all assets are identified and called in. A thorough approach is needed, because there can be additional money ‘hidden’ in obscure insurance policies or old super fund accounts as well as forgotten bank accounts. Going through the deceased’s tax returns and paperwork can help identify the less obvious assets.

The executor or administrator of the estate is the person responsible for these tasks and is legally responsible to do the job competently and promptly.

Ascertaining the institution’s requirements

The executor must ascertain the requirements that need to be met before an institution will release the assets they hold on behalf of the deceased. Each institution (e.g. bank, share registry, managed fund, titles office) has its own distinct requirements. Also, before attending to the collection of assets, you should determine if you need a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration, as this process should be commenced as soon as possible. Even if Probate or Letters or Administration are not strictly required, they can save a lot of paperwork and expense in the process of collecting in assets.

Assessing the deceased’s debts

In addition, the executor will need to pay the deceased person’s debts (including estate expenses such as the funeral, as well as taxes) and attend to the release of securities over assets, such as mortgages over property.

It is important to note that not all debts of a person which were incurred during their lifetime are liable to be paid following their death. Also, some assets that may come into the estate are ‘safe’ from being required to be allocated to the payment of debts. An executor needs to be aware of these, so they do not dissipate an estate unnecessarily and open themselves up to personal risk. Tax consequences of various assets and liabilities also need to be considered carefully at this time.

All estate liabilities should be attended to before the estate if distributed to beneficiaries.

You don’t know what you don’t know – Get advice from the estate administration experts

At Estate First Lawyers we can assist you with all of the advice you need to understand your obligations and rights as executor and the practical steps to call in assets and pay any liabilities associated with a deceased estate. Please contact us to make an appointment or for further information.

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