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Managing a deceased estate

Two adults and a child sitting together looking through a family photo album

When someone close to you passes away, it can be a very difficult time. If you were named in their Last Will and Testament as the Executor of their estate, you may also have the added stress of managing a complex list of tasks. With so much to deal with, it can be hard to know where to start or even how to begin.

How to manage a deceased estate

As you will need to comply with the laws governing estate management, you may choose to seek the help of others. If the estate is a complex one, a legal professional should be able to assist you through the whole process.

First steps

Your immediate priority will likely be reaching out to family and friends of the deceased to let them know their loved one has passed away. You may also be responsible for the organisation of the funeral service according to the Last Will and Testament, and to be able to do that there are several organisations that will need to be notified.

As a starting point, you will need to contact your loved one's bank or financial institutions, relevant government departments (such as Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office) and insurance, superannuation and utility companies. The Australian Death Notification Service can help you get in touch with multiple organisations using a single online process, but here are some things you will need first.

You will need the official Death Certificate and account/membership details. You’ll also need the original Last Will and Testament and you may have to apply for a Grant of Probate from the Supreme Court. This is a document that grants you power to administer the deceased person’s estate as executor.

Identify the estate assets

One of the challenging tasks for an Executor is determining the estate's assets and debts, which unfortunately can be difficult to do. You will need to make a list of everything the person owned or was entitled to, and this could include bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, personal effects, shares, investments and superannuation. This list is not exhaustive and you may find that there are other assets that need to be accounted for.

Pay any debts

Once you have determined the estate's assets, it is then time to pay any outstanding debts associated with the estate. This could include funeral and administration expenses, outstanding utility or credit card bills, loan repayments and taxes (including income tax).

You may find that opening a bank account in the name of the estate - known as an Estate of the Late account - is a good option. This can help you easily keep track of the assets sold and the debts that have been paid.

You will need to contact several organisations to request information on any debts that are to be settled. And, you may also be required to publish a notice asking people with a claim against the estate to come forward.

Distribute the remaining assets

After all the estate debts have been paid, the remaining assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries named in the Last Will and Testament. If the deceased person didn’t leave a Will, the beneficiaries may be determined in accordance with the relevant state’s legislation.

Reach out for support if you need it

Managing the estate of a loved one can be an upsetting and stressful experience. There are a number of people and organisations that can help you while you are going through this difficult time and you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for support while you are grieving.

 

If your loved one was a P&N member, our Help Centre provides more information on how we can help you finalise their banking arrangements. We’re here to help make the process simple and straight forward, so don’t hesitate to contact us by calling 13 25 77.

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