Administration of an Estate

Once the executors or administrators of the estate have a grant of probate or letters of administration, they must administer the estate. Administration of the estate involves collecting all the deceased’s assets, paying any liabilities or expenses and distributing the assets of the estates to the beneficiaries.

What are the steps in the administration of the estate?

The grant of probate or administration gives the executors or administrators the legal right to act on behalf of the estate. After a grant is made, the next steps in the administration of the estate may involve the following steps:

  1. Call in all the deceased’s assets and have them transferred into the executor/administrators or estates name;
  2. Pay the deceased’s liabilities and expenses;
  3. If necessary, pursue or defend any claims in respect of the estate; and
  4. Distribute the estate in accordance with the Will or intestacy laws.

Estate assets

The executor or administrators need to collect all the assets of the estate. This usually involves having the estate assets transferred into the executors’/administrators’ names or transferred directly to beneficiaries. Some assets cannot be dealt with without a grant of probate or administration.

What happens to the deceased’s liabilities and expenses?

The executors/administrators need to ensure that all of the deceased’s liabilities and expenses are paid. This involves paying off all the deceased’s liabilities and paying for any expenses until the estate has been fully administered. There are usually testamentary expenses incurred after the deceased’s death, including paying for the funeral, burial/cremation and any celebrations after the burial/cremation (e.g. a wake). These expenses are usually paid for out of the deceased’s assets/estates.

How is an estate distributed?

Depending on the terms of the Will and in some cases the preference of beneficiaries, the executors or administrators may transfer assets in specie, that is, transfer the actual asset to a beneficiary, or sell assets and distribute the proceeds of sales to the beneficiaries.

In the case of probate, the Will may stipulate how an asset is to be distributed to a beneficiary, that is, in specie or the proceeds of sale. In other cases, it is generally up to the executors/administrators on how to distribute the estates but it is generally recommended that the executors/administrators discuss these matters with beneficiaries.

In some situations, an executor/administrator may make interim distributions to beneficiaries while waiting for more assets to be transferred to them. Executors/administrators need to be careful about when and how they distribute the estate to ensure they don’t breach any rules or laws, resulting in them having personal liability for any breaches.

What happens with claims or litigation regarding the estate?

In some circumstances, a dispute may arise in respect of the administration of the estate. Such dispute could be a family provision claim, a dispute about what assets form part of the estate or a dispute regarding how the estate is being administered.

The executor or administrators become the representatives of the estate in any dispute. It may become necessary for the executors or administrators to participate in litigation regarding the estate. Disputes regarding the estate’s administration usually arise in respect of recovering assets of the deceased including any loans owed to the deceased, defending any family provision claims and how the estate is administered including any costs or professional fees incurred & the timing of distributions.

Where can I find more information on the administration of an estate?

Our team is experienced in all aspects of estate administration, including the more complex situations that can arise. Get in contact with our team today to ensure that the administration is timely and as smooth as possible in what is often a difficult time.

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No part of these notes can be regarded as legal advice. Although all care has been taken in preparing all notes, readers must not alter their position or refrain from doing so in reliance on any of these notes. Stephen Wawn & Associates do not accept or undertake any duty of care to readers relating to any of these notes. All inquiries should be directed to Stephen Wawn & Associates.