What do I need to do if a family member has died?

There are many matters that need to be dealt with when a person dies. Notifying family members and friends and arranging the funeral is the first priority.  After that, someone will need to deal with the deceased person’s property and affairs (called their ‘estate’).

The person responsible for dealing with a deceased person’s estate is the executor of their will.  This person is sometimes referred to as a Legal Personal Representative.    If there is no will, the responsibility will fall to the next of kin in a statutory order.  Eligible next of kin can apply to the court be appointed as Administrator of the estate.  An Administrator is another type of Legal Personal Representative.

The process of dealing with the deceased’s property and affairs is called administering their estate.  The actual steps will vary for each estate, but usually include:

  1. Obtaining a death certificate.
  2. Notifying organisations such as banks and superannuation companies. You can notify multiple organisations at one time using Australian Deaths Notification Services (deathnotification.gov.au).
  3. Gathering information about the deceased’s assets, liabilities and other affairs.
  4. Applying for Probate (if there is a will) or Letters of Administration (if there is no will). This step may not be necessary where the estate is small or consists only of jointly owned property.
  5. Collecting the deceased’s property and assets. This may involve closing bank accounts, selling property or claiming insurance and superannuation benefits.
  6. Paying debts and completing any final tax returns.
  7. Distributing the remaining assets under the terms of the will or, if there is no will, in accordance with the statutory order.

If you are a Legal Personal Representative, it is important to take advice about your responsibilities so that you are not exposed to personal liability if you administer the estate incorrectly.  A solicitor can assist you with deciding if you need to apply for Probate or Letters of Administration, with making that application and also with many of the other steps.

If you need assistance with a deceased estate, contact Althea Willis at Hornsby Wills and Probate on 0410 485 277 or by email: althea@hornsbywillsandprobate.com.au

Superannuation and Estate Planning

It’s easy to overlook superannuation entitlements when arranging your affairs, but this is an important part of your estate plan.  Superannuation can be a major asset and the amount paid out when you pass away (known as a ‘death benefit’) will include the proceeds of any life insurance policy attached to your account.

Superannuation death benefits are not automatically dealt with under the terms of your will.  If you want the benefit to be dealt with under your will, you must direct your superannuation provider to pay it into your estate using a binding death benefit nomination form.

You can also have the benefit paid directly to your spouse or children.  This can help protect it if your will is likely to be challenged, or if your estate is insolvent.

Payment of death benefits to certain beneficiaries (including adult children) can have taxation consequences.  This is the case whether the beneficiary receives the benefit directly from the superannuation provider or through your estate under the terms of your will.

Other financial considerations are also relevant when considering the payment of death benefits, such as the effect of receiving the benefit on your spouse’s pension arrangements.

Individuals with self-managed superannuation funds must also ensure that control of the fund is passed to a suitable person.  This is a high-risk area for estate planning and it is important to obtain proper advice.

For advice about superannuation death benefits or other estate planning matters, contact Althea Willis at Hornsby Wills and Probate on 0410 485 277 or by email to: althea@hornsbywillsandprobate.com.au

 

Estate Planning and COVID-19

Many people are worrying about their estate planning during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The reassuring news is that it is still possible to make an estate plan and sign a valid will in these extraordinary times.

Earlier this week, the NSW government released the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020 which allows witnessing of important estate planning documents to occur by audio-visual link.  This means that if you are unwell, or required to self-isolate for any reason, the entire process can happen remotely.

If you are well, it is safe to conduct your estate planning in the usual way, with in-person meetings that comply with social distancing guidelines.  Hornsby Wills and Probate offers home visits in the Hornsby area and, provided that you have a suitable area in which to meet, you will not need to leave your home to provide face to face instructions.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss your estate planning, contact Althea Willis at Hornsby Wills and Probate on 0410 485 277 or by email to althea@hornsbywillsandprobate.com.au