Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy and unfortunately, it is not just grief that those who are left behind have to work through. The administrative process associated with a death can be lengthy and confusing and, depending on the circumstances, it can even stir up other negative connotations.
The best way to work through the administrative side of an estate is by using a step-by-step process as certain documents, dates and events can affect the next action in the checklist.
Obtaining a death certificate
It goes without saying that a death certificate is an important document. It will be relied upon many times throughout the administrative process, particularly where probate is concerned. If you are the executor of a Will or the next of kin of a deceased person, you will be required to present the death certificate to a range of different companies including banks, super funds and utility providers in order to access or cancel accounts held in the deceased’s name – including where you are a joint account holder.
If the deceased was elderly or in poor health it is unlikely that an autopsy will be required, however, it should be expected that the coroner may decide to perform an autopsy if the circumstances surrounding the death were suspicious or unusual. In lieu of an autopsy, the deceased’s General Practitioner or another doctor who has been treating them for a specific illness may instead be required to provide a report in order for a cause of death certificate to be prepared.
A death certificate will always be issued to the deceased’s next of kin or the executor of their Will.
The executor or next of kin will not be able to access any of the funds in the estate until the death certificate has been received and it is important to remember that it can take anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks for the certificate to be processed.
Due to what can be a lengthy process to obtain the death certificate, it is likely that it will not be ready before the funeral. In this case, funeral costs are usually paid for by a member of the deceased’s family, who is then reimbursed out of the estate funds once they are released. Occasionally banks will even pay funeral expense invoices out of the account of the deceased, however, this is not a blanket offering from all banking institutions.
Some people make provision in their Will for the way they would like their funeral to be arranged. This may include the location, particular music they would like played and if they would prefer to be buried or cremated. The deceased’s family or the executor of the Will usually plans the funeral if specifications are not outlined in the Will.
Time limits are incredibly important when it comes to dealing with the Will.
Firstly, the beneficiaries need to have survived the deceased by 30 days in order for any assets to be distributed to them.
Secondly, although the process for Probate can be commenced sooner, an interested party to the Will (such as a spouse or child) has up to six months to inform the executor of their intention to contest the Will. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the executor to hold off on commencing probate as they will be liable if they divide the assets prior to the six month period.
Once the notification period has lapsed, if a party does intend to contest the Will, they will have up to nine months in which to file a Family Provision Claim. As such, it is wise for the executor to refrain from dividing the assets until at least nine months after the date of death.
Probate is not a simple process to understand if you are not dealing with it every day. An application for probate needs to be made in the Supreme Court. A solicitor will need to do this for you. If the Estate is not straight forward, this process can take some time as requisitions may be made by the Court until they are satisfied everything is in order.
Division and distribution of the Estate
For the Estate to be distributed probate must have been received and a period of six months has to have lapsed without notice of a party contesting the Will.
It is only then that the executor is able to divide and distribute the Estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes as set out in their Will.
Estate administration is not a simple process and its complexity can compound the effects of grief. It is recommended that you seek the assistance of a lawyer who deals with Estate administration to ensure the process is as speedy as possible and that no important deadlines or details are overlooked.
For further information or assistance, contact Cairns Wills and Estates Lawyers today.