If someone dies without leaving a will, distributing their assets can be complicated. In Australia, the process requires letters of administration. In this guide, we will discuss what is a letter of administration, who can apply, and how to obtain a grant.
What is a letter of administration?
A letter of administration is a legal document that allows someone to administer the estate of a deceased person who did not leave a will. The letters also prove that the administrator has control over the assets.
Why is a letter of administration important?
It is essential to obtain letters of administration if you need to distribute the estate of someone who has died without a will. Without a grant of letters of administration, it’s difficult for beneficiaries of an estate to manage and distribute the deceased person’s assets.
When do you need a letter of administration?
There are two different situations when a family or friend needs to apply for a letter of administration after a loved one dies. These include:
- If the deceased left a valid Will but the Executors named are unable or willing to apply for Probate, another person will have to apply for Letters of Administration with the valid Will annexed.
- When a person dies without a valid Will, the person is said to have died intestate. In these circumstances, a person, usually a spouse or close relative, will need to apply for Letters of Administration.
Who can apply for letters of administration?
In Australia, anyone entitled to a share of the estate can technically apply for a letter of administration. However, the court does typically grant to:
- Spouses or de facto partners (if there is more than one partner, the court can grant letters jointly)
- A child living with the deceased person before they died or who was dependent on the person for financial support
- A person named in a will to administer the estate as an executor but refuses (for example, because they do not have time)
- A creditor or other person with a legal interest in the estate
- Trustee and Guardian
Steps to apply for letters of administration
- Confirm there's no Will. The application must accompany an affidavit confirming that the deceased person did not leave a will. The applicant or their solicitor usually does this step.
- Prove you are eligible to apply. You must also provide evidence to show that you are entitled to letters of administration and all others that can apply. In addition, you can include proof of your relationship with the deceased person.
- Obtain all necessary documents & information. To apply Letters of Administration with the Court, the Executors must disclose all assets, liabilities and expenses relating to the deceased's estate.
- Publish a notice of intended application for Letters of Administration. Before the court grants letters of administration, the executor must publish a notice in two local newspapers (one regional and one metropolitan) stating their intentions to apply for letters14 days before filing.
- Prepare documentation for applying with the Court. This documentation includes the application, affidavit, letters of administration and will (if there is one). The executor must also pay a filing fee.
- Submit the letters of administration application. The Supreme Court issues the letters of administration in your state or territory. In addition, you will need to apply to a court registry, which can be done in person or online, depending on where you live.
- Handle requisitions from the Court. The Court can issue requisitions (or questions) to the executor asking for more information about the estate. The Executor must then answer these promptly.
- Administer and distribute the estate. Once the executor receives a letter of administration, they can administer and distribute the deceased person's assets following the intestacy laws of your state or territory.
What is a requisition?
A requisition is the court's questions regarding the application that the executor must answer before granting a letter of administration. These are usually about the estate, for example, how much it's worth or what kind of assets it has.
A typical letter of administration application could take three to six months to finalise with no complications. However, it can take longer if there are issues with the original letters of administration application.
What happens after letters of administration are granted?
After receiving a grant of letters of administration, the administrator has control over the deceased person's assets and can begin distributing them following the rules of intestacy or the original Will. The letters of administration remain valid until all assets have been dealt with and distributed.
What documents does the court need for the application?
The necessary documents to apply for letters of administration can vary from state to state in Australia. However, the following documents are common when applying for the court to grant letters of administration:
- the Will and any Codicils (if applying for Letters of Administration with Will annexed)
- the Death Certificate
- a Summons for Letters of Administration form
- an Affidavit of Applicant for Administration
- the Inventory of Property form
- Grant of Letters of Administration form
- Consent to Administration form
- Administration Bond
Managing the estate of a loved one who has died is a complicated and emotional experience. Therefore, equipping yourself with the right knowledge to distribute the estate is important. Applying for letters of administration can be done easily from home with the help of Willed.
We provide all the resources and support you need to simplify this process. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our team.