Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Being involved in the administration of an estate when a loved one passes can be a daunting process, but knowing the terms and responsibilities is a good place to start. EMMA Perkins from RMB Lawyers explains:
The term estate usually refers to all affairs of a person that remain outstanding at their death, including assets and liabilities.
Some assets that generally that do not form part of the Will-maker's estate include property owned jointly with another person which passes automatically to the other owner; superannuation and life insurance proceeds which are paid directly to the nominated beneficiary; and undistributed assets of a family trust.
An executor is a person appointed by the Will to manage the estate, while a beneficiary is a person who receives a gift or benefit from the estate.
It is not necessary to have a formal reading of the Will. Usually beneficiaries are notified of their interest by the executor or the law firm appointed by the executor. Beneficiaries can request a copy of the Will from the executor or solicitor.
Beneficiaries have the right to information regarding the administration of the estate but only to the level of which they are entitled to receive under the Will. For example beneficiaries who are only entitled to specific gifts or money generally will not be entitled to receive full details of the estate, whereas beneficiaries who receive a share of the balance of the estate are entitled to a full accounting including details of all funds received and expended.
A beneficiary can bring Court proceedings against an executor who fails to provide adequate information, however any such proceedings would cause delay and incur additional expenses.
A typical estate is likely to take between six months and a year from the date of death until distribution. However, estates can take longer depending on the direction of the Will.
If there is no Will, the next of kin usually apply to the Supreme Court for a document called "Letters of Administration - essentially the Court's formal approval for someone to administer the estate of the deceased.
In some Wills there may be provision for funds or assets to be held subject to specific conditions, such as to be held on behalf of children until they reach a certain age. A trust is created and a person appointed as a trustee to hold the funds or assets according to the rules of the trust.
NEXT TIME: The role of Executor.