Letters of Administration in Canberra
In Canberra, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory issues Letters of Administration to authorise someone to deal with an intestate, or partially intestate, deceased estate. This type of court order is also pertinent to cases where a testator has left a will but there is no available executor to apply for a probate grant. This article gives details of the purpose of Letters of Administration in Canberra.
What is the purpose of Letters Of Administration in Canberra?
The Supreme Court issues two different forms of Letters of Administration in Canberra. The first is Letters of Administration (No Will), which applies to intestate estates, the second is Letters of Administration, which applies when there is a valid will but the applicant for the probate grant is not an executor named in the will.
An administrator should apply for Letters of Administration in Canberra if they need the official sanction of the court to receive the deceased’s property. This grant authorises someone to collect, hold and distribute the deceased’s assets according to a will or if there is no will, in line with statutory succession rules.
It is usually only necessary to obtain this grant if the deceased was the sole owner of real property in Canberra, or held large sums in financial institutions. It is not necessary to file for a grant if the deceased’s only sizable assets were owned jointly with another person or had a binding death benefit nomination in place (such as with a superannuation account).
The family of the deceased must establish if it is necessary to obtain this legal authority given the specific assets included in the estate. Therefore, the first action of the next of kin is to collect a list of assets and liabilities. Typically, financial institutions and the Land Title Office in Canberra require a certified copy of Letters of Administration before they will transfer an asset to an administrator. However, some banks will release funds under a threshold amount without this authority if the administrator is willing to assume responsibility for any future liability. The threshold amount depends on the standard rules of each institution so it is best to make a direct enquiry for more information.
Who can apply for Letters Of Administration in Canberra?
In Canberra, the Administration and Probate Act 1929 governs intestacy succession. Under this law, any person who is eligible to inherit from a deceased estate may apply for Letters of Administration. Any beneficiary of a will may apply, or in cases of intestacy, anyone who is entitled to benefit under intestacy law can apply to act as administrator. If there are several people willing to assume the role of administrator, the court will choose the most qualified applicant, typically the deceased’s nearest kin.
While an applicant for Letters of Administration does not have to be a resident in Canberra, the process will be more difficult if the applicant lives outside the territory. The applicant needs to personally attend the Supreme Court to file an affidavit of search when the application is lodged, and must have a local address for service.
Obtaining Letters Of Administration in Canberra
A prospective administrator must take specific steps before officially filing an application for Letters of Administration in Canberra. These steps include:
- Searching for a will;
- Advertising an intention to apply for Letters of Administration in The Canberra Times;
- Collecting a list of assets and liabilities;
- Serving notice to all other eligible applicants of an intention to apply for Letters of Administration;
- Drafting and finalising all relevant court documents, including necessary affidavits that specifies:
- Efforts to locate a will;
- The names and contact details of all eligible applicants;
- Reasons why the applicant is the most suitable applicant;
- Steps taken to comply with obligations as an applicant; and
- The people who are entitled to final distribution of the estate under intestacy rules.
Once the applicant has fulfilled his or her obligations, and waited for the two weeks statutory waiting period to lapse, he or she can file the application before the court. An applicant for Letters of Administration must act swiftly to meet the statutory time limits. In Canberra, the application must be filed within three months of the notice’s publication, and within a total of six months from the deceased’s death. The court will only allow an extension under limited circumstances when there is a compelling reason for the delay.
The court can also issue a reseal of Letters of Administration issued in an interstate jurisdiction (and in some other commonwealth countries). If the deceased resided in another state or territory but owned real property in Canberra, the administrator will need to file for a reseal of the original probate grant in order to administer the asset.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.