Deceased Estates

We recently held a Seminar at St Stephens Anglican Church where Janis Donnelly-Coode from this office discussed Wills, Powers of Attorney and Appointments of Enduring Guardian and Steve Judd from Judd Financial Services discussed investing for your retirement.  The seminar went for two hours so it is not possible to repeat everything. However there are a couple of things that are worth repeating here.

In our experience dealing with a loved one’s estate can be a very stressful and upsetting time. The combination of dealing with grief and also dealing with these financial issues can result in disputes and added pressure on the executor.  For instance often the executor or a family member will pay the funeral expenses themselves as they feel they have to. People then come to see us after they have paid these expenses.  In our experience if there are funds in the deceased’s bank account and a bank is provided with a copy of the funeral invoice they will agree to draw a cheque to the funeral home from that account. They will not draw a cheque payable to the person who can prove they have previously paid the funeral expenses. That person will have to wait until Probate is obtained or the estate is administered.

Another problem that we see is when a spouse passes away and the surviving spouse does nothing to administer the estate, possibly because they don’t feel they ‘need’ to.  If the parties held the property as joint tenants then the process of transferring the property to the surviving spouse by registering a Notice of Death is simple.

If instead nothing is done then when it comes time to administer the surviving spouse’s will the Notice of Death can no longer be used because neither party is alive.  The process is then far more complex because now the executor must administer two estates at the same time and there may be disputes about what should have happened with the first spouse’s estate. Usually time and money would have been saved if the first spouse’s estate was properly administered.

If you are the executor of an estate then you are entitled to obtain advice or assistance from a lawyer or other professional like an accountant.  So long as this advice and these costs are reasonable, and there is enough money in the estate, then the costs will be paid by the estate.  If you are the executor of a will you should obtain advice in relation to your responsibilities and also the steps that need to be taken to finalise the will.