When someone close to you dies, it can feel like a full time job dealing with the aftermath of a funeral service, finances and family grief all at once. Add the absence of legally valid Will into the mix, and things can get very overwhelming, very quickly.
At Safewill, we're passionate about making end-of-life admin an easy process. In line with this mission, today we're providing a complete guide on how to apply for letters of administration in the aftermath of a death, covering:
What is a Letter of Administration & when is it required?
5 Simple Steps to make Letters of Administration a simple process
Costs & required documentation
The difference between Probate & Letter of administration
State by state specific requirements
Let's dive straight in.
If someone dies without a will (known as dying ‘intestate'), the next of kin is required to obtain approval from the Supreme Court to access and distribute the deceased person's estate- known as ‘Letters of Administration' (LOA). This is a court order which grants legal authority to manage and administer the estate. Once approved, this person becomes known as the ‘Administrator' and they are given the responsibility to manage the deceased's assets and final wishes.
These documents are also required if someone died with a valid will but they did not name an executor, or the executor is unwilling or unable to act. Letters of administration will only be granted to someone who is named as a beneficiary.
If there is no valid will, applying for a Letters of Administration is necessary before anyone can deal and distribute the deceased's assets to loved ones. The process for obtaining one follows the same format in each state and territory, and can be broken down into the following steps:
Identify appropriate person to apply as administrator
Create inventory of the deceased estate
Obtain a death certificate
Lodge a notice of intention
Complete & submit application forms to Supreme Court
This must be someone who is eligible to receive a share of the estate. It could be a partner, spouse, child or other family member.
An application should be lodged with the Supreme Court by the next of kin, or another eligible relative. Most states have a deadline for when this needs to be completed, typically within six months from the date of the person's death. If the application is lodged after that time frame it will still be considered, but extra paperwork may be required.
A formal document should be drawn up to detail the complete inventory of the deceased's assets. This inventory represents a written document on all assets and liabilities, wholly or partly owned by the deceased- including money held in bank accounts, property, investments, businesses and family heirlooms.
If a funeral has already been held the funeral director may have already submitted the forms to register the death. Otherwise, an application will need to be lodged with the registry of births, deaths and marriages.
It is a legal requirement to notify any potential Beneficiaries about your intentions to administer the estate. A notice of Intention needs to be published on the relevant state or territory registry ahead of lodging the formal application for a LOA. This gives family or friends an opportunity to get in contact before the process of distribution of assets and specific gifts begins.
An application can be lodged 14 days from the date the notice of intention was published. Each state and territory will have a specific set of forms to fill out and sign. All written documents can be submitted to the Supreme Court registry in person or via post.
There is no fixed price for filing for Letters of Administration. Additional costs, fees and charges will vary depending on the state and territory you reside in and the gross value of the estate. Administrative tasks like obtaining a death certificate and lodging a notice of intention usually incur small fees, around $50 - $100.
But the cost of filing the official application will vary based on how much the estate is worth. In some states, the service will be free if the estate is less than $100,000.
Fees for this service then rise incrementally for estates valued over this amount. You can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $5,000 for the formal application.
Each state and territory will have a set of specific forms you need to fill out to lodge an application. In addition to these forms, you will need to prepare personal documents relating to the deceased and any beneficiaries. The court is unlikely to return these documents so it is wise to make copies of any originals before you submit the application.
The paperwork required for a Letter of Administration application includes:
The names, ages and addresses of eligible beneficiaries;
The inventory of property;
A signed affidavit by the applicant;
A signed affidavit that the Deceased was not in a De facto Relationship (if applicable);
Consent to Administration.
Letters of administration and probate are two distinct legal entities. But what is probate? And when do you need probate or a letter of administration?
Probate is the court order required for an executor of will to access a deceased estate- it is the process which follows if there was a valid will with a named executor. In contrast, letters of Administration are only required if there was no will or named executor in place.
An application for Letters of Administration requires writing an application to the Supreme Court in the relevant state or territory. Each state has a specific set of forms and documents which need to be filled out for review. To access the details click through to the links below.
Letters of administration make it possible for family and friends to access your estate if you die without a will.
In contrast to when a valid will and executor are in place, the letters of administration process is more complicated. It can create unnecessary added stress on your loved ones during the grieving process by drawing out probate and legal requirements they have to deal with.
This creates barriers to seeing your wishes carried through, and can create added financial strain on your loved ones at this time. Avoiding this stress is a key reason why you should write your Will and appoint an executor of estate in advance.
To grant you peace of mind, and secure your wishes in death- it's important to create your Will. Obtaining this legally valid document in life, allows you to decide the lasting legacy you want to leave in death. From the children you want to receive special gifts, who you want your own home to go to and assigning a guardian to look after minor children- a Will is the most cost effective way to secure these wishes.
In avoiding the need for traditional lawyers to manage the letters of administration process, a Will can grant you peace of mind and save your family money further down the line.
Safewill provides the easiest and most affordable platform to write and sign your Will, online from your own home.
Our expert lawyers provide support at each step of the way and make it more convenient than ever to write that all important, and legally binding, Will and last testament document. This grants you peace of mind that your wishes are secure in death, without excessive costs of estate lawyers to make it happen.
What's more, the affordable Safewill service comes with the added benefit of power to update and review your online Will, or appointed executor. Our flexible online service works around your life schedule from the offset, includes free updates within the first year, as well as a subscription option for continued updates.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this guide is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice but as a basic guide to the application process. If you have concerns or queries you should consult a legal professional about your specific circumstances.