If you’re an heir or have been named as a beneficiary by a person who left an estate, you need to wrap up the decedent’s affairs while he or she was still alive. The decedent is the legal term for a person who died and left an estate.
If you’re a child of the decedent, you’ll most likely have to arrange for the wake and the funeral and notify relatives, friends, and other people the decedent would’ve wanted to be informed. If the decedent willed some properties to you or named you as executor, you’ll have to take part in the probate of the will.
Next, you’ll have to wrap up other personal affairs of the decedent, such as personal effects, communication accounts (e.g., correspondence, phones, emails, etc.), and even social media accounts. You’ll also have to settle the outstanding credit card balances, utility bills, and other accounts of the decedent. In addition, you’ll have to secure the important documents and cash on hand left by the decedent.
Here are 4 tips for handling probate.
Prepare Probate Prerequisites
Once you’ve done all the preliminary stuff, the next thing to do would be to prepare all the things you need for the probate process. The legal term for this is prerequisites. There are ways to determine who the beneficiaries are based on the will and the rules on who inherit if there is no will. Here are some of the things that you have to do:
1. Determine The Beneficiaries And Find Them
Determine the beneficiaries of the estate to know the persons who will receive a share or portion of the estate of the decedent.
- Find out how the beneficiaries named in the will are related to the deceased.
- If the deceased didn’t leave a will, the rules on intestacy will determine who the beneficiaries will be and how the estate will be distributed among them. There are slight differences in the rules of intestacy used in each Australian state and territory. As a general rule, though, the rules provide that the decedent’s spouse and children will be the beneficiaries
- Once you’ve made a list of all the eligible beneficiaries other than you, and gotten hold of their contact information, the next thing you ought to do is to find them. If they don’t know yet, you have to inform them of the death of the person who left them an inheritance.
- Reach out to the other beneficiaries and tell them you’re the one handling the probate. Hold a meeting for all the beneficiaries so you can tell them how the process would go and how long it would take. You may also ask them if the deceased have other relatives with a rightful claim to the estate but have been left out of the will.
2. Confirm Whether The Court Has Jurisdiction
If the settlement requires the application for probate or grant of letters of administration, you need to lodge an application with the state Supreme Court which has jurisdiction. The court should have jurisdiction over the state or territory where the assets of the estate are located or registered. For instance, the Supreme Court of Victoria does not have the authority to grant probate of assets located in West Australia or New South Wales.
If the decedent owned assets in two or more states or territories (say, some in Victoria and some in Western Australia), you have two options on how to proceed with the probate application. Your first option is to apply to multiple Supreme Courts, in each state or territory where the decedent owns properties. Your second option would be to ask the Supreme Court of the state or territory where the decedent has other properties to ‘reseal’ the first and original Grant of Probate.
‘Reseal’ of probate is the legal term that means you’re asking the Supreme Court of another state or territory to recognise the grant of probate you obtained in another Supreme Court. If granted, the executor would then have the authority to administer and transact the other properties over which the resealing court has jurisdiction.
3. Compile An Inventory Of Assets
If you’re tasked to handle the probate of the person who died, make an inventory of all the properties of the decedent at some point. Part of your task would be to list down all the properties which form part of the decedent’s estate. The following are some things that you need to get done:
- Find out exactly what real and personal properties were owned by the decedent at the time of death. This includes lands, residences, buildings, businesses, monies in the bank, shares of stocks in companies, insurance policies, among others.
- Provide all the beneficiaries with an overview of what the estate consists of in terms of real and personal properties. It should also include a list of the debts of the decedent at the time of death.
- Prepare the application for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. You can go to a solicitor for help on this.
- Lodge a final tax return on behalf of the estate.
- Distribute the specific properties in the estate following the instructions in the will.
Here are assets and properties (as well as liabilities) to check if they’re owned by the decedent and should thus form part of the estate to be distributed to the beneficiaries:
- Real estate (including houses, lands, buildings, etc.)
- Businesses (including the interest of those businesses in other assets and properties)
- Bank accounts (including savings accounts and time deposits)
- Business as well as personal investments
- Personal loans extended to relatives and friends
- Shares of stocks and portfolio investments
- Memberships in exclusive clubs, golf courses, business associations
- Cars, recreational vehicles
- Yachts, boats, and other marine vessels
- Jewellery and other precious metals
- Paintings, sculptures, and artworks
- Antique items and other collector’s items
- Online investment accounts, such as digital placements in shares of stocks, indices, commodities, precious metals, exchange-traded funds, and cryptocurrency investments
- Debts and obligations, such as commercial loans, business loans, mortgages, personal loans, guarantees, promissory notes, and other certificates of indebtedness
4. Prepare Valuation Statement
After tidying up the inventory list of the assets and liabilities, go over the value of each item. Back up your estimate with some proof of valuation at the time of the decedent’s death.
For shares of stocks, for example, request the concerned stock exchange for their prices of each class of shares at the date (and preferably including time) of the decedent’s death. Then, sum up your work in a Valuation Statement, which will be shown to all the other beneficiaries.
For bank accounts, request for certifications and statements from the concerned banks of each account owned and registered under the name of the decedent. Most banks won’t give you this unless you’ve already been granted the Probate or Letters of Administration.
Getting an inheritance is both a privilege and a responsibility. As a beneficiary, you’ll be receiving a part of the wealth that a person strived to save and accumulate during his or her lifetime. However, if you’ve been appointed as the executor of the estate, having a will probated entails a lot of work and responsibilities.