To understand what happens after letters of administration are granted, it's crucial to first grasp this legal concept and context.
In simple terms, a letter of administration is a legal document issued by the Supreme Court of Australia. It authorises an individual, known as the administrator, to manage the estate of a deceased person who passed away without leaving a valid Will.
In this situation, the deceased died without appointing an executor to manage and distribute the assets leftover in their estate.
Under the laws of intestacy, a letter of administration grants the appointed administrator the same authority as an executor; allowing them to access, manage and distribute the deceased's assets, debts, and other financial matters.
If someone dies without a Will, there's a set number of people who can take on the role of administrator. Given the responsibility of this role and the importance of asset distribution, there's good reason for limitations on who can step in.
With this in mind, the Supreme Court will appoint an administrator to manage the deceased’s estate, according to a strict set of eligibility criteria. This aims to appoint someone who is either close enough to the deceased to know their wishes, or responsible and knowledgeable enough to do a fair job.
Eligible people who can be appointed as executor:
Spouse or Domestic Partner: This person will be given priority to apply for the role of administrator.
Children or Other Beneficiaries: In the absence of a spouse or domestic partner, the deceased's children or other beneficiaries may apply.
Other Family Members: In the absence of a spouse, domestic partner, or children, other family members, such as parents or siblings, may seek letters of administration.
Creditors or Other Interested Parties: In some cases, creditors or other individuals with a financial interest in the estate may apply if no eligible family members come forward. The Supreme Court can also appoint a public trustee to take on this role.
The duration to obtain letters of administration can vary depending on several factors. And whilst each case is unique, there are general steps which determine every application time scale:
Gathering Necessary Information: The person applying to be administrator must gather essential documents; such as the death certificate, information about the deceased's assets and liabilities, and any potential beneficiaries. This could be prolonged for larger, more complicated estates.
Preparing the Application: With the assistance of a solicitor or legal professional, the administrator will then complete the application form, including relevant details about the estate and their eligibility.
Lodging the Application: The completed application, along with the supporting documents, is lodged with the Supreme Court.
Court Review and Granting: The court reviews the application over the course of several weeks or months, to ensure all requirements are met. This time delay can depend on the court's workload or complexity of the estate.
Once the court grants letters of administration, the administrator obtains legal authority to act on behalf of the deceased. This comes with a long list of responsibilities and asset management tasks to navigate, including:
Identifying and Securing Assets: The administrator must locate and safeguard all assets belonging to the deceased, including property, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings.It’s now their responsibility to ensure these are properly managed.
Settling Debts and Liabilities: Before the administrator can distribute the estate amongst beneficiaries, they must use leftover funds to pay off any outstanding debts or liabilities on the deceased’s estate.
Filing Tax Returns: Like debt, taxes unfortunately don’t always die with the deceased. The administrator must also file on any necessary tax returns and pay outstanding taxes as a part of estate administration.
Distributing the Estate: Any remaining assets must then be distributed among the beneficiaries, according to the intestacy laws in the state.
Keeping Detailed Records: Throughout the administration process, the administrator must maintain accurate records of all financial transactions, communications, and decisions made. They are legally liable for completing this role, and so a record can prove they acted fairly and responsibly throughout.
Finalising the Estate: Before the administrator bows out, they must prepare a final account and seek court approval for the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. This gives legal validation that estate administration, and the administrators responsibilities, have concluded
Obtaining letters of administration is a bit of a necessary evil when it comes to dealing with an estate with no Will. However, knowing who can apply, what to expect and what the administrator is responsible for doing can help alleviate the stress and time delays of this process.
From paying off debts to dealing with the tax office, financial investments and beneficiaries set to inherit- the responsibilities of an administrator are far and wide. Knowing this in advance can help inform your choice over whether to apply for the role, and how much legal support you might need to get through.
Write your Will today and save the stress of appointing an administrator at a later date. Offering an easy and affordable way to outline your asset wishes, appoint your executor and plan your estate- Safewill leaves you with no excuses but to get it done!
Start today, with the help of one of our legal specialists on 1800 10 33 10 or via live chat now.