After losing a loved one, it is normal to want to withdraw from everyday activities as you mourn. However, there are processes that cannot be ignored and these tend to frustrate and stress you at a time when your emotions are most vulnerable. One of these processes is the administration of a deceased estate and this guide will hopefully to take the burden off your shoulders a little bit and simplify the process.
Step 1: Find out if the deceased had funeral/life insurance
If the deceased died without telling you this, you can try to find out by asking from other people the deceased had close relations with. This can be best mates, lawyers or even religious leaders. Sometimes people do not reveal things such as life insurance to benefactors for trust reasons therefore even if you are very close, make sure you double-check. Funeral insurance will make it easy for you to plan the funeral, and life insurances usually issue a part of the claim to cater for funeral costs whilst they finalise the life insurance claim.
Step 2: Find out whether the deceased left a will
If they had life insurance, this information will likely be from the insurance firm and if they didn't, you can find out from their lawyer (if they had one), their bank or even by checking their personal papers. It is important to find the will before funeral arrangements because the deceased may have left instructions as per the kind of funeral service they need in the will. In Queensland, a will only comes into effect 30 days after the beneficiaries have survived the deceased person.
Step 3: Obtaining the Death Certificate
You will not be able to execute a deceased estate without a death certificate. In Queensland, you will need to obtain the Cause of Death Certificate from the coroner. In cases where the deceased had been ill or been of advanced age, this can be obtained without an autopsy. After you have the Cause of Death Certificate, you will apply for a Death Certificate, which can take between two and eight weeks to obtain. This is probably the most important step in administering a deceased’s estate.
Step 4: Arranging The Funeral
Where the deceased had no life insurance, the family has to pay out of their own pockets to facilitate the funeral. This is because the funeral normally precedes the issuance of a death certificate. The funds used in the funeral can be claimed back when the deceased estate is disbursed, so it is important to keep all related paperwork. Once you have given your loved one a befitting send-off, you can now focus on administering their estate.
Step 5: Probate
This is the part where the Supreme Court of Queensland acknowledges that a valid will was written. Once this is done, the court will issue a grant, which is a document recognising someone's authority to deal with the deceased's estate. It may be possible that the person instructed to administer the will cannot do so for any reason. If this is the case, the court can grant a 'grant of letters of administration of the will', recognising a different person. Where no valid will was left, the court will grant a 'grant of letters of administration on intestacy.' There are fees associated with this process, and these can be reimbursed, provided the receipts are kept.
Step 6: Dividing And Distributing The Estate
Once the grant relevant to the estate has been obtained from the Supreme Court, it is time to administer the estate. It is advised to wait at least 6 months before doing so because Queensland law allows people to contest the will or bring a 'Family Provision Claim' therefore an executor may end up being liable if they distribute the assets before 6 months have lapsed. The executor must pool all funds and sometimes it is necessary to sell assets. All debts must then be taken care of before distributing the remainder to the benefactors.
The above-mentioned process is tedious and can be overwhelmingly complex to a person not familiar with Estate Administration Law in Queensland, therefore it is advised to seek help from a wills and estates lawyer to help you walk this difficult path.