When a person dies, you may need to take a number of legal steps in order to:
- Gain access to bank accounts and superannuation funds
- Transfer real estate and other assets
- Pursue claims and receive compensation on behalf of the deceased person.
If the deceased person dies with a legal will, it is usually necessary to obtain a grant of probate of the will from the Supreme Court so that the executor of the will can deal with the assets and liabilities of the estate.
A grant of probate from the Supreme Court is the legal authority that means that the will is valid and allows the executor to administer the estate according to probate law and to distribute assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
What happens when somebody dies without a legal will?
Where a person dies without a legal will, the law determines who will receive the estate. In this instance, letters of administration need to be obtained from the Supreme Court, which will allow the assets and liabilities of the estate to be dealt with.
Letters of administration authorise a person (called an administrator) to administer the deceased estate and distribute assets.
Each estate is different. If you find yourself having to handle a deceased person's will or estate, Slater & Gordon strongly recommend that you seek legal advice first from our deceased estate lawyers.
Our experienced team of wills, probate and estate litigation lawyers will work with you to assess the relevant issues and advise you frankly of the legal options and avenues available to you.
How do I know if I need a grant?
The following factors should be considered when deciding whether an application should be made:
What property was owned by the deceased (where the deceased owned property jointly with others, or owned property through a company or trust, this property might not form part of the estate)
The value of the deceased’s property
The location of the deceased’s property
The requirements of banks, share registries, insurance and superannuation companies
Whether the deceased was involved in court proceedings prior to his or her death that can be continued by the estate.
Each estate is different and you should seek legal advice from a deceased estate lawyer about your position before deciding whether it is necessary for you to obtain a grant.
Do I have to pay for the legal fees?
Generally, you will be entitled to a reimbursement from the estate for the reasonable costs that you incur in making an application for a grant of probate or letters of administration and dealing with the assets and liabilities of the estate.