Estate Administration in Canberra

In Canberra, a personal representative (either an executor or administrator) is responsible for estate administration. This person takes care of wrapping up the deceased’s affairs after their death. When there is a will, an executor carries out the estate administration according to the testator’s wishes. When there is no will or no appointed executor, an administrator approaches the process in much the same way but subject to the provisions of the Administration and Probate Act 1929. This article outlines the important duties involved in estate administration in Canberra.

What Is An Estate In Canberra?

A deceased estate is made up of the property and assets of a person who passes away, such as cash, real estate and personal possessions. A deceased estate also contains those debts that survive the death of the deceased, such as secured loans and tax obligations.

Who Undertakes Estate Administration In Canberra?

When a testator passes away in Canberra leaving comprehensive and binding testamentary instructions in a will, he or she will have appointed an executor to take charge of the estate administration. This executor is often a close relative, such as an adult child, or spouse of the deceased. Alternatively, the testator may choose to employ a professional executor to manage the estate administration in Canberra. Employing someone like a solicitor to act as executor can have distinct advantages, as it inserts an experienced and impartial representative into the process, and leaves the family time to grieve.

On the other hand, if the deceased was intestate (that is, they died without executing a valid will), or the named executor is no longer a viable candidate to manage the estate, then a suitable administrator takes over the responsibility of estate administration.

Duties Involved In Estate Administration In Canberra

The steps involved in estate administration in Canberra include:

  • Identifying the deceased’s assets and liabilities;
  • Physically safeguarding these assets (including taking out insurance if necessary);
  • Applying for a probate grant from the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory;
  • Administering and managing the assets of the estate;
  • Finalising debts and liabilities as appropriate;
  • Consulting an accountant and finalising the deceased’s tax return;
  • Administering any testamentary trusts established in the will; and
  • Dispensing assets of the estate to beneficiaries in line with the will, intestacy rules or court order.

Other duties of estate administration in Canberra vary according to the size of the estate and the nature of the testamentary instructions. Although the duties vary, there is a fundamental ethos that governs all estate administration, in that a personal representative must protect the estate and the interests of the beneficiaries. This duty of care includes protecting the assets physically, but extends to defending the estate from legal dispute. These responsibilities can be fairly straightforward but in some cases they can become onerous. In the event that a personal representative fails in their duty, a beneficiary can lodge a complaint with the court and request the removal of the representative and the appointment of a more competent administrator.

Estate Administration Canberra: Probate Grants

In many cases, a personal representative needs to apply for a probate grant in order to undertake every aspect of estate administration in Canberra. The Supreme Court issues several different types of probate grant, depending on the status of the deceased’s estate planning. Specifically, the Court issues a Grant of Probate to an executor for a valid will, Letters of Administration With Will to an administrator for a valid will, Letters of Administration No Will to an administrator when there is no valid will. There is also provision for the Court to issue a Reseal of Probate Grant to a personal representative who has obtained probate in a foreign jurisdiction and needs the Court in Canberra to affirm the grant for use within the territory.

Estate Administration Canberra: Timelines

In almost every case, the personal representative needs to wait at least six months after they obtain the grant to give out the assets of the estate. This delay allows time for creditors and claimants to come forward to make a claim against the estate. The administrator or executor should aim to complete the estate administration within twelve months, as it is standard to expect the administration to wrap up within the “executor’s year”. There may be unavoidable delays that extend the administration beyond this timeline, whether because of ongoing litigation, property transactions or continuing testamentary arrangements, such as trusts for minor children of the deceased, or adults who are unable to handle their own affairs.

Who Is Paid For Estate Administration In Canberra?

When a testator appoints a professional to conduct the estate administration in Canberra, they must pay a standard fee for the service. While there is no such obligation to pay a family member or friend to act as executor, sometimes a testator will leave a small gift in their will in recognition of the representative’s care of the estate. In Canberra, there is also provision for an administrator or executor to apply for an “executor’s commission” to compensate the applicant for their administrative efforts. The amount of the commission will depend on the overall value of the estate and the extent of the work undertaken during the estate administration.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2020.
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