Deceased Estate Administration
What are my responsibilities as an executor of a deceased estate?
If you have been named as an executor in someone’s Will, it means the deceased wanted you to administer his or her estate. There can be any number of executors named in a Will, though one or two is usually considered sufficient. If you are an executor, you may need the assistance of Clelands Lawyers to deal with the legalities of administration.
You are entitled to apply to the Supreme Court for a commission for your work as executor. But if you are named also as a beneficiary in the Will the bequest will be presumed to be payment for your administration unless there are circumstances or something in the Will to overturn that presumption. If you do not want to be an executor (even if you earlier agreed to be one), you can renounce the executorship by signing a “renunciation”. Clelands Lawyers can file it with the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court.
In general terms, an executor's duty is to take charge of the deceased’s assets and property, see that debts and taxes are paid and finally to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries in the Will. You will have to begin by making a list of everything the deceased owned or was entitled to. If the estate is to be divided between a number of beneficiaries, the assets may have to be valued. Next, you may have to apply to the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court for a Grant of Probate. Probate is akinto order of the Court which states that the Will is valid and that the executor has the right to administer the estate. When applying for Probate you will need to complete a number of forms. Clelands Lawyers can prepare these forms for you.
What if the estate is small?
Banks and financial institutions have varying rules which allow access to the deceased’s funds, without a grant of probate if the estate is small (usually less than $50,000). Enquiry should be made of the body concerned to ascertain at what level it will insist on a Grant of Probate before the executor can deal with the funds.
What happens after probate is granted?
Once probate has been granted, the executor must collect the deceased’s assets and take steps to pay what the deceased owed. In view of possible liability for Capital Gains Tax it is important to find out the date and costs of acquisition of the deceased’s assets. Funeral expenses are to be paid first and after funeral expenses are paid, the executor is entitled to claim any expenses relating to the administration of the estate before other debts are paid. There is a particular order in which any other debts must be paid.
Once debts have been paid, assets are either distributed according to the terms in the Will or they are sold so that money can be divided among the beneficiaries. As executor you might have to contact financial organizations and companies in which the deceased has money invested in order to realize those assets, and become involved in selling various pieces of the deceased’s belongings such as jewellery, a boat or car.
How are the assets distributed?
When all assets have been identified and, if necessary sold to raise cash, and all debts have been paid, the remainder of the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. The executor must prepare a distribution report and statement for the beneficiaries – showing what the assets were, how much money resulted from the sale of assets and what expenses and debts were paid from the proceeds. When an executor wishes to apply to the Court for commission for administration, detailed accounts have to be filed with the Court and all payments and receipts by the executor properly approved.
What if there is no Will?
If there is no Will there will be no executor. If you are a relative of the deceased, you can apply to the Probate Division of the Supreme Court for letters of administration. Once granted, these make you a personal representative of the deceased and you can proceed to administer the estate in much the same way as an executor.