When a person passes away, and unless they have a very small and simple estate, it is necessary to obtain a court order appointing a person to have authority to manage their estate.
Where the person had a valid Will when they died, we talk about applying for “probate” of their Will. This is a formal legal process in which we apply to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, asking for official recognition that the person has died, that the Will that we have submitted is valid, that this Will is truly the last Will of the person, and that the executor(s) named in the Will are now authorised to deal with the deceased person’s property.
Where a person dies without a valid Will, then a family member will usually apply to the court to be appointed as an “administrator” of that person’s estate. We describe this as seeking “letters of administration”.
Seeking probate or letters of administration can be a complicated process. Affidavits usually need to be prepared and evidence put forth to satisfy the court of what is being asked. The rules are very rigid and strictly followed. For this reason most people seek the help of lawyers to guide them through this process.
There is a schedule of fixed costs which can be charged by lawyers to obtain probate or letters of administration. For this reason, using a competent firm like Atkinson Vinden to help with obtaining probate is a wise decision as we will be no more expensive than a smaller or less experienced firm.
Each year we successfully apply for probate and then administer over 50 estates. Those estates can be very small, in the tens of thousands of dollars, through to very large estates worth tens of millions of dollars. We are able to liaise with family members to ensure that all of the important documents are collated to assist in the court application.
Once we have obtained probate or letters of administration, we then usually assist our clients with calling in all of the assets of the estate and then assisting with the distribution of monies to family members according to the Will. Often this is seen as preferable to a family member handling these things, because there is a sense that a professional and neutral third party removes any suspicion of anything untoward being done.
Let us take the worry out of the legal side of a family member’s passing. We can:
- obtain Probate of the Will
- administer the Estate, including calling in all of the assets and identifying and paying all of the liabilities
- distribute the Estate to beneficiaries