Dealing with the Estate

Distributing an estate

Once the probate has been granted, the duties of the executor or administrator are as follows:-

  • Aggregate all of the assets of the estate
  • Settle any outstanding debts including income tax
  • Disseminate the rest of the assets in accordance with the directives of the will

Collection and Dissemination of Assets

Banks and building society accounts

  • Money from joint accounts typically pass automatically to the other account holder, assuming they are still living at the time of asset distribution.

Small Balances

If there is a relatively small balance in an account with the deceased person’s name, the balance may be released without requiring a probate or letter of administration from the court.  The bank may require additional documentation, such as the will and death certificate, before they will authorise the release.

Real Property

Joint Tenancies

If the deceased was the joint tenant, or who owned a piece of property with someone else, the following documentation must be submitted with the LPI (Land & Property Information) in order to receive a new title in the name of the surviving tenant

  • Original title
  • Death certificate
  • A completed notice of death and notice of sale or transfer of land

Other Real Property

If the deceased was the sole owner of property, a number of documents must be submitted to Land and Property Information in order to transfer the property to the executor or named beneficiary.  These documents are:

  • Original Certificate of Title
  • A transmission application
  • A notice of sale or transfer of land

Life Insurance

Many insurance policies are activated upon the death of the policyholder.  Most of companies will begin paying out these policies without formal administration if the sum does not exceed $10,000.  Some documentation may be required to initiate the payout procedures.


Most superannuation funds are established as part of the trust.  Most funds have conditions that state that upon a member’s death, a benefit is payable to the member’s dependants.


Formal court letters are not required for dealing with a vehicle.  The car should be sold or formally transferred to the appropriate beneficiary.

Paying Debts

Funeral Expenses

Most banks will allow funds to be withdrawn from the estate in order to pay for funeral expenses.

Other creditors

Other creditors are not eligible to receive payments until the assets are made available to the executor or administrator.

Insolvent Estates

If a person had more debts than assets upon death, the estate must be dealt with differently.  The estate may be made bankrupt and be administered by a trustee in bankruptcy.  If the estate is assigned to a trustee in bankruptcy, the role of the executor is rendered irrelevant.

Distributing Assets

The distribution of the estate is contingent on the nature of the estate and the presence of a will.  If there is no will, then the executor must follow the rules of intestacy.  If there is a will, the executor must begin allocating the assets according to the dictates of the will.

If the will is disputed, the executor may be held responsible for the items that have already been disseminated.

It is important to rely on your resources, such as your solicitor (or the team at What do I do? can direct you) to help you ensure that the will is valid and legal.

No beneficiary has a legal right to any of the assets until an executor distributes it.   This does not hold true in the case of joint bank accounts, which are automatically transferred to the surviving account holder at the time of death.

Should you have any questions about asset distribution, you can enlist the help of a solicitor or the team at What do I do?  We are here to help!!!

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