When a person dies leaving assets in Victoria, somebody, usually the executor of the deceased person’s Will, has to deal with the administration of the estate. Administering the estate means following the legal processes to distribute the estate as the Will-maker wanted.
The person does not have authority to deal with the assets of the Will until the Supreme Court issues a Grant of Representation, unless the estate is small. An estate is considered ‘small’ if it is around $113,000. This amount changes every year and is published on the the Supreme Court website.
The role of the executor
An executor is a person (or sometimes more than one person) named in a Will to carry out the wishes of the Will-maker after their death. Often lawyers or specialist trustee companies are named as executors.
The executor may have to:
- collect all the assets and have them valued, if needed
- find out what debts are owed and pay them from the money made by selling the assets
- arrange tax returns
- claim life insurance
- arrange the funeral
- apply for a grant of probate (they must be over 18 when they apply)
- distribute the estate according to the Will
- take or defend legal action on behalf of the estate.
Executors often need to hire a lawyer to assist them with some of this. The cost of the lawyer comes out of the estate.
If no executor is named in the Will
If the person who made the Will failed to appoint an executor, usually the court needs to appoint someone to administer the estate. A person appointed by the court is called an administrator (of a Will) . Often the person they choose to appoint as administrator is the beneficiary with the largest portion of the estate.
An administrator has the same responsibilities as the executor.