12 Step Checklist – Tasks of an Executor of an Estate

Arrange the Funeral

  • Does the Will provide for the funeral arrangements? If not, the Executor has the final say if there is any dispute within the family.
  • Who paid for the funeral? Whoever pays for the funeral will need to provide you with the tax invoice/receipt so they can be reimbursed from the Estate.

Locate the Will

  • Check at the Deceased’s Solicitors’ offices. Is there a safety deposit box at the bank or at the Deceased’s home?
  • Once the Will is located, instruct a Solicitor to assist in the administration of the Estate.

Collect the Deceased’s Financial Documents

You will need to provide the following documents to the Solicitor administering the Estate:

  • The Will of the Deceased;
  • The original Death Certificate. The Funeral Director will arrange this to be sent to the person who organised the funeral;
  • Recent bank statements;
  • Recent credit card statements;
  • Recent Income Tax Returns and Financial Statements of the Deceased, of any private company or trust in which they were involved;
  • Insurance policies including life insurance;
  • Share Certificates which note the relevant HIN/SRN;
  • Centrelink documents;
  • Partnership Agreements;
  • Trust Deeds, including Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSF), of which the Deceased was a Trustee and/or Beneficiary – the Deceased’s accountant may be able to assist;
  • Original Title Deeds;
  • The most recent Annual Superannuation Membership Statement and any Nominations re superannuation death benefit payouts; and
  • Contents of any safety deposit facilities which may be located at the Deceased’s usual Solicitors, accountants, financial advisers or bank.

Identify the Assets

  • Assist the Solicitor with the preparation of an inventory of what you understand are the assets and liabilities of the Estate.

Have you considered the following assets:

  • Household contents, artwork, motor vehicles, boats, caravans, real estate, cash retained in safety deposit boxes/at the Deceased’s home;
  • Time shares, shares, bank accounts, superannuation, life insurance;
  • Loan accounts in any Company, Trust or Partnership in which the Deceased was involved;
  • Outstanding employee entitlements or lost superannuation; and

Notify the Relevant Authorities

You, or usually the Solicitor acting for you, will need to notify the following Authorities of the Death:

  • The Australian Electoral Commission;
  • Private health insurers, Centrelink and Medicare;
  • Lodge a Change of Address at the local Post Office;
  • Clubs and Associations of which the Deceased was a member; and
  • Cancel Driver Licence.

Other Matters

  • Contact employer and other professional advisers and advise of the Deceased’s death. They may have information, documents or entitlements to provide to you.
  • Provide the Beneficiaries of the Estate with a copy of the Will.
  • Contact the Deceased’s accountant or employ another accountant to prepare an Income Tax Return for the relevant financial year and one to the date of death.
  • Make enquiries as to ongoing management arrangements for the Deceased’s business and SMSF and take appropriate steps where required.
  • Ask the Beneficiaries to keep a record of any expenses they pay on behalf of the Estate and provide you with receipts/tax invoices for reimbursement from the Estate.
  • Contact the house and contents insurers and find out what arrangements need to be made in regards to insurance cover.
  • Negotiate resolution of litigation.
  • Act as director of the family company which may be the trustee of the family trust or self-managed superannuation fund.

Once an Estate of a Deceased has been properly identified and calculated, the Executor or the Solicitors acting in the administration of the Estate may need to take a number of formal steps before they are in a position to distribute the Estate to the Beneficiaries. Here is a checklist of the tasks which may need to be undertaken in the administration of the Estate.

Payment of Debts

All of the debts of the Deceased must be paid before the Estate is finally distributed.

Such liabilities may include expenses such as the following:

  • The funeral expenses;
  • The mortgage;
  • Credit cards;
  • Utility accounts e.g. electricity, telephone and gas;
  • Income Tax Liabilities;
  • Reimbursement of employment or Centrelink payments;
  • Executor’s Commission, (if a claim is made);
  • Legal fees and outlays re administration of the Estate;

Obtaining Probate or Letters of Administration

Sometimes it is necessary to request the Court to make an Order that the Will is the last Will of the Deceased. This is called a Grant of Probate. Where a person has died without leaving a Will or if there is a Will but no Executor is nominated or able or willing to take up the appointment, an Application can be made to the Supreme Court. This application is called “Letters of Administration”.

  • Have you discussed the need to apply for Probate/Letters of Administration with a Solicitor?

Family Provision Applications

Sometimes a Deceased’s spouse, child or dependant may make an Application to the Supreme Court for further provision to be made from the Deceased’s Estate. This usually happens where that person is of the view that the Deceased has not made sufficient provision for them in their Will.

There are also quite strict time limits which must be followed when making a Family Provision Application.

Transmission Applications

Real Property which is held by the Deceased as at the date of death can be transferred by filing a Transmission Application in the Titles Office.

Requests to Record Death

Real Estate which is held by the Deceased as joint tenant with another person will need to be transferred to the surviving joint tenant by filing the relevant document with the Titles Office.

Self Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSF)

If the Deceased has an SMSF, the Executor will need to ascertain whether a Death Benefit is payable to the Estate. If the Deceased is the only member or the last surviving member of the Fund, the Executor may need to wind up the SMSF as part of the Estate administration.

If you are Executor of an Estate and require help, please call us on (03) 5941 1622 or email  admin@duffysimon.com.au.