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I am a beneficiary of a deceased estate

Finding out that you are a beneficiary of an estate often comes at a time when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. It may be a difficult time to think about the physical belongings and assets of the deceased.

However, it does help to have an understanding of the estate administration process.

What is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is any person or entity such as a charity that receives a gift or benefit from a deceased person’s estate.

What is an ‘estate’?

An estate is all of the money and property owned by a person.

Who is an executor?

An executor is the person or trustee (like State Trustees) who is responsible for administering the estate as per the instructions in the Will.

Being an executor often means having to make some difficult legal decisions. It helps to have some experience in finance, business, managing conflict and law.

What is the role of the executor?

An executor is the person who is appointed to carry out the wishes in a Will and is personally responsible for managing the deceased estate.

Some of the key responsibilities of an Executor are:

  • locate the original Will
  • arrange and pay for the funeral
  • arrange the death certificate
  • provide death notifications to the ATO, Centrelink, banks etc.
  • apply for a Grant of Probate
  • lodge tax returns for the deceased person and their estate
  • liaise with utility services
  • identify the guardian of children (if applicable)
  • protect the assets of the estate
  • be prepared to mediate and resolve disputes between beneficiaries

Things you might need to know as a beneficiary

  • as a beneficiary you are entitled to receive a copy of the Will upon request
  • there is no legal obligation for beneficiaries to be told they are beneficiaries before the estate is distributed
  • beneficiaries need to understand that Executors have the legal responsibility for the estate.
  • all bank accounts and assets of the estate freeze when the person dies. The executor needs to protect the estate and assets from the date of death.
  • beneficiaries need to seek their own legal advice if they believe they haven’t been adequately provided for by the deceased.
  • estate administration can take between 9 – 12 months.

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