Probate – What happens when I leave a valid Will

When a person who has a valid Will dies, their executor, a person named in the Will to administer the estate, distributes their assets and settles their debts. A “Grant of Probate” is a certificate granted by the Probate Division of the Supreme Court that provides the Will of the deceased is valid and registered and that the executor may administer the estate.

In order to receive a “grant of Probate” the executor must apply to the Supreme Court. If their application is approved, the  Grant of Probate confirms the Will maker has died, the Will is authentic and confirms the identity of the executor.

The Grant of Probate enables the executor to prove that they are authorised to administer the Will of the deceased. Put simply, administration involves making sure the Will maker’s debts are paid and that their assets and possessions are distributed according to their Will. A Grant of Probate protects those organisations that hold the deceased’s assets (for example banks) from charges that they acted fraudulently in relation to the estate.

The executor applies for Probate by lodging the correct forms (attaching the death certificate, an inventory of property, an executor’s affidavit, and the original will) at the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court fourteen days after publishing their intention to do so.

Once the Supreme Court grants Probate, the executor must pay the deceased’s expenses and debts before dividing the assets or money amongst the beneficiaries. It is usual for the executor to open an estate bank account and pays the debts in a set order, funeral expenses, then legal expenses related to obtaining Probate, outstanding taxes, and other debts.

Usually you’ll have to pay a fee when you lodge the Probate forms. However if the estate is valued at less than $100,000 the court makes an exception. Similarly financial institutions usually allow you to access the deceased’s bank accounts when the estate is small.

The Supreme Court keeps the Grants of Probate and corresponding Will (After probate is granted they become public documents). If a person dies without a Will, their estate is administered following the Supreme Court granting ‘letters of administration’.

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