Administration of the estate

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Administration of the estate

When a person dies leaving assets in Victoria, somebody, usually the executor of the deceased person’s Will, has to deal with the administration of the estate. Administering the estate means following the legal processes to distribute the estate as the Will-maker wanted.

The person does not have authority to deal with the assets of the Will until the Supreme Court issues a Grant of Representation, unless the estate is small. An estate is considered ‘small’ if it is around $113,000. This amount changes every year and is published on the Supreme Court website.

The role of the executor

An executor is a person (or sometimes more than one person) named in a Will to carry out the wishes of the Will-maker after their death. Often lawyers or specialist trustee companies are named as executors.

The executor may have to:

  • collect all the assets and have them valued, if needed
  • find out what debts are owed and pay them from the money made by selling the assets
  • arrange tax returns
  • claim life insurance
  • arrange the funeral
  • apply for a grant of probate (they must be over 18 when they apply)
  • distribute the estate according to the Will
  • take or defend legal action on behalf of the estate.

Executors often need to hire a lawyer to assist them with some of this. The cost of the lawyer comes out of the estate.

If no executor is named in the Will

If the person who made the Will failed to appoint an executor, usually the court needs to appoint someone to administer the estate. A person appointed by the court is called an administrator (of a Will). Often the person they choose to appoint as administrator is the beneficiary with the largest portion of the estate.

An administrator has the same responsibilities as the executor.

Grant of Representation

A Grant of Representation is a legal document issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria that allows the executor or administrator to deal with the assets of the deceased’s estate.

It is official proof that the person named in the grant is entitled to collect and distribute the estate, including:

  • money held in banks or managed funds
  • property to be sold or transferred
  • debts to be paid.

The role of the court

The Supreme Court can make orders about:

  • whether a Will is valid
  • the appointment of an executor or administrator
  • the administration of deceased estates.

If there's a challenge to the Will, the executor can't act until this has been settled by the Supreme Court.

The court can also make decisions about changes or additions to Wills and correct any obvious errors.

Types of grants

There are four types of Grants of Representation issued by the court:

  • Probate – issued if the executors named in the Will prove that the last Will is valid
  • Letters of Administration with the Will annexed – issued if there is a valid Will, but no executor to apply for a grant
  • Letters of Administration – issued if there is not a Will or there is a Will but it is not valid (usually to the next of kin)
  • Limited Grants – issued if any of the above grants are limited to the estate and the time or purpose for which it is made, for example, when property is administered pending the outcome of legal proceedings concerning the Will.

To apply for a grant, the Supreme Court’s Probate forms must be completed and submitted to the Probate Office.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with Wills and estates.

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