Manage a deceased estate

Information about the obligations of the executor of the estate after a person dies, including applying for probate. 

When a person dies, everything they own forms their 'estate'. The estate can comprise:

  • real estate
  • house contents
  • bank accounts
  • investments
  • shares
  • motor vehicles
  • jewellery and other possessions

If the deceased person had a valid Will, that Will nominates an Executor. 

An executor is a person/s or an organisation appointed under the terms of a Will to manage and distribute the deceased person’s estate.

To get authority to do this, the Executor is usually required to prove and register the Will with the Supreme Court in order to obtain a legal document called a Grant of Probate.

If there is no Will, any one or more of the adult beneficiaries of the estate are entitled to apply for Letters of Administration. This will grant the applicant authority equivalent to that of Executor.

Executor duties include, but are not limited to:

  • Locating and securing the last Will of the deceased
  • Ensuring that any funeral instructions detailed in the Will are carried out
  • Identifying and notifying all beneficiaries named in the Will
  • Applying for a Grant of Probate
  • Securing assets, valuing the estate and ensuring assets are insured
  • Identifying and paying all creditors
  • Lodging tax returns (if applicable)
  • Establishing and managing trusts (if requested in the Will)
  • Collecting bank accounts and investments, selling or transferring vehicles, realty, shareholdings and other assets according to the terms of the Will and the wishes of the beneficiaries
  • Defending the estate against litigation
  • Distributing the estate according to the terms of the Will

Administering an estate is a very complex and time consuming task, and can be a burden on your family and friends at an already difficult time. This is why many people choose to appoint a professional executor such as the Public Trustee.

Getting help with a Deceased Estate

The Public Trustee can:

  • Be appointed as Executor (or substitute Executor) in your Will
  • Take on the role of Executor if there is no Will, if someone renounces their role, or if the named Executor has died
  • Be appointed by the Courts to act as Executor in certain circumstances

If you have been appointed as executor of a Will but are unwilling or unable to fulfil the role, the Public Trustee may be able to assist. You can request the Public Trustee to administer the estate on your behalf.

In this instance the Public Trustee will:

  • Identify and notify all beneficiaries named in the Will
  • Secure, value and manage the assets of the estate including making sure assets are insured
  • Apply for a Grant of Probate
  • Identify and pay all creditors
  • Lodge tax returns if required
  • Collect bank accounts and investments, sell or transfer vehicles, realty, shareholdings and other assets according to the terms of the will and the wishes of the beneficiaries
  • Defend the estate against litigation
  • Create and manage any trusts as outlined in the Will
  • Distribute the estate according to the terms of the Will

The estate administration process generally takes between 6 to 12 months (depending on the complexity of the estate).

To learn more about how the Public Trustee can help you with deceased estate administration visit or phone 1300 746 116

Page reviewed 4 May 2020
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