I recently asked the question, what are some unexpected Estate costs that came up, and I was surprised by some of the responses. I will collect them here so that others can be forewarned.
Many people talk about the funeral costs or the solicitors fees, there are lots of other little things though that can add up. Things like:
- Paying an IT professional to 'break into' a computer to access someone's contact list (to tell them about the death and the funeral or contact them about unpaid work entitlements);
- Utilities in the name of the deceased might crop up (or already be overdue at the date of death) and need to be paid so that the house can be sold;
- Moving, storage or disposal (rubbish removal) costs if a house has to be vacated (even if they are renting you still have to empty the house);
- Filing fees - there can be so many, one example is paying to transfer the name on a motor vehicle, say from a husband to a wife, so that you can transfer the name on the insurance contract
- Mobile phone bill - so you have access to their contacts, photos or things like passwords
- Cost of burying the body - things like the cemetery plot, the plaque for ashes or the head stone for burial, even transporting the body if they die on holidays
- Car registration so that you can sell the vehicle
- Ongoing insurance costs until the assets are disposed of
Remember it will take 6-9 months to get Probate, if your bank won't release the money until Probate is obtained then anything that crops up in the middle there needs to be paid by someone else. If your bank doesn't require Probate it generally takes two weeks for the official death certificate to issue, and the banks generally won't release funds without the official death certificate. Once they receive a certified copy they will then have their own processes (i.e. further delays).
Do not pay the funeral costs up front. Do not let someone you know do this either. Even if there isn't a pre-paid funeral, there are still options.
One common option is to get the solicitor to contact the bank or the superannuation company and have them pay the funeral costs. If you pay the funeral costs on your credit card, the superannuation company or bank will make you wait until you have Probate before repaying you. If they are paying the funeral home directly then they will do that (generally) without Probate.
There are other things that you can advise your friend in this situation. Have a read of our article "What to do when your friend loses their spouse".
Your time is valuable
It takes a lot of time to be an Executor. I am forever warning people about choosing an Executor, that it is an honour not a privilege, and yet I don't think people understand. I have written a separate article on the time you need to invest to be an Executor.
Things can come up later, after you think it is all wrapped up. Things like an Australian Electoral Commission fine, because you forgot to notify them of the death, or a tax return because the ATO thinks they are still alive. Now these things can be dealt with by the solicitor, but it is just more time and hassle when you thought it was all wrapped up.
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