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Letters of Administration In Sydney

In Sydney, the Supreme Court issues probate grants to authorise a person to settle the business of a deceased estate. The court grants Letters of Administration when someone dies without leaving a will (that is, who is intestate) or when there is a valid will but no available executor to apply for a Grant of Probate. A Grant of Letters of Administration not only empowers an administrator to act on behalf of an estate, but the deceased’s assets are vested in the personal representative until such time as the assets are sold or transferred. This article explains the purpose of Letters of Administration in Sydney and outlines the application process.

Letters of Administration With the Will Annexed in Sydney

Sometimes, a testator will leave a valid will, but either fail to name an executor or the listed appointees are not present or willing to apply for probate when the testator dies. In these cases, an appropriate person can apply for Letters of Administration with the Will Annexed to legally assume responsibility for the estate and verify the instructions contained in the will.

Letters of Administration Without Will in Sydney

If a deceased neglected to make a valid will in Sydney, the deceased estate is intestate and will be allocated to beneficiaries according to succession rules set out in the Succession Act 2006. In order for an administrator to have authority to manage an intestate estate, he or she needs a grant of administration over the estate.

It is important to note that it is not always necessary to obtain letters of administration for an intestate estate. Financial institutions and insurance companies usually require a certified copy of such a grant before they will release sizable assets to the administrator. However, if the estate does not include any sizable assets, then the family of the deceased can decide that they do not need to obtain Letters of Administration. For instance, if the deceased owned property jointly with their spouse, and held their cash in a joint account, then neither of these assets will become part of a deceased estate because full ownership will automatically transition to the co-owner. If the person distributing the possessions of the intestate person chooses not to obtain Letters of Administration, he or she is responsible for accounting to any prospective beneficiaries or claimants.

Applying for Letters Of Administration in Sydney

An application for Letters of Administration must be prepared according to the prescribed form and in compliance with the Probate and Administration Act 1898 and the Supreme Court Act 1970.

Who can apply for Letters Of Administration in Sydney?

The Probate and Administration Act restricts the list of eligible applicants for Letters of Administration in Sydney. The Supreme Court is directed by this statutory regime to grant Letters of Administration to the closest relative (such as the spouse or child) of the deceased. The court will look with particular favour on an application that is endorsed by the other family members and prospective beneficiaries of the estate.

Alternatively, if several family members wish to manage the estate, they can make a joint application, or submit competing applications. The court will judge the merits of the competing applications and make a decision to the benefit of the estate and the beneficiaries. In the absence of any more suitable candidate, the court may even appoint a creditor of the estate as the administrator.

In the event that the court is unduly delayed in making a decision about appointing an administrator, they can engage a special administrator. This special administrator manages the estate on an interim basis until a permanent administrator is chosen and the court grants them Letters of Administration.

Duties of an administrator

Letters of Administration authorise an administrator to “call in” the deceased’s assets, pay any creditors and liabilities of the estate, and distribute the assets to the legal beneficiaries. In effect, the duties of an administrator are identical to those of an executor. For instance, the administrator is required to file a final tax return on behalf of the deceased, and manage any ongoing testamentary arrangements, such as a discretionary trust. The administrator is also empowered and required to negotiate with claimants and debtors, and defend the estate if appropriate against legal contest.

Deadline to file Letters Of Administration in Sydney

An applicant must file for Letters of Administration before six months have passed since the deceased’s death. In narrow circumstances, it may be possible to make a late application, but the court will expect a compelling justification for the delay.

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Author

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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