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