Estate Administration - what's the process?
Having to deal with the administration of a loved one’s Estate, while still grieving for their loss, can add stress to an already overwhelming time. Our succession planning, trusts and estates team is here to take the pressure off and help guide you through the legal process.
The process required to administer an Estate can vary significantly depending on the assets held by the deceased and whether these were held individually or jointly with someone else.
All assets were held jointly between the deceased and I – what do we need to do?
When assets such as bank accounts and residential property are held jointly, these will be transferred into the name of the surviving owner by virtue of the law of survivorship, regardless of the terms of the deceased’s Will. It is a cheaper and quicker process than what is required for Probate.
Presenting a certified copy of the deceased’s Death Certificate to the Bank will enable the joint accounts to be transferred into the sole name of the surviving account holder.
To transfer jointly owned property, the surviving owner will need to sign a Transmission document, which includes a Statutory Declaration and a certified copy of the Death Certificate. This is then lodged with Land Information New Zealand and upon registration, the property will vest in the name of the remaining owner.
As Probate for jointly held assets is not required, it is important to ensure these are set up correctly during the Estate Planning phase. Please do not hesitate to contact our team to discuss what this can mean for you.
Assets held solely by the deceased
Probate is required for Estates with assets totalling more than $15,000 in value. Probate is the Court’s authority for the Executors of the Will to act on behalf of the Estate. If the deceased did not have a valid Will at the time of their death, then Letters of Administration will be required.
The Executors are responsible for carrying out the terms of the Will and, with the assistance of our office, consolidate the deceased’s assets and use those assets to pay for any debts of the Estate.
The procedure to apply for Probate is for the Executors to complete an Affidavit which contains information in relation to the date of death and residence of the deceased, and confirmation of the appointed Executors. The Affidavit is then filed in the High Court at Wellington together with the original Will and supporting Probate documents. If the Registrar is satisfied with the documents, Probate will be granted, and the Probate document will be sent back to us with a copy of the Will attached. The original Will is retained by the High Court.
This is a similar process to that required for Letters of Administration, however, there are strict rules issued by the High Court which govern who is entitled to apply for this.
Once Probate has been granted, we can then look to start gathering in the assets owned by the deceased. All bank accounts can be closed, property transferred, and the funds paid to our trust account for payment of any debts and the subsequent distribution in accordance with the Will.
If the deceased owned property, a Transmission to Personal Representative will be completed to transfer the property to the Executors to be held pending sale or distribution of the same. On the Record of Title, the words “as Executor” will appear to clearly show the ownership is held on behalf of an Estate.
Distribution of an Estate
The Administration Act 1969 provides for a period of six (6) months from the date of grant of Probate or Letters of Administration within which an Estate should not be distributed. This is to protect the Executors from any claims that could be made in the Estate. If an Estate is distributed within this period and a successful claim is made, then the Executors can be held personally liable.
If it is unlikely that a claim will be made against the Estate, the Executors and Beneficiaries can enter into a Deed of Indemnity which indemnifies the Executors and Young Hunter against the possibility of any claim and providing that if a successful claim is made, the Beneficiaries will pay their share of the proven claim. We can discuss the necessary steps should an earlier distribution be requested.
If you have any questions relating to the administration of an Estate and/or the process involved, please contact Theresa and the team on 03 379 3880 to discuss.