Preparing for peace of mind during probate
Dealing with the death of a loved one can be especially difficult if you bear the responsibility of carrying out the wishes of their will and managing their estate. At a sensitive time, the complicated settlement process might be an unpleasant stress multiplier; especially when a big asset, such as real estate, is involved. It is one thing to get through the probate process and deal with the estate’s taxes and other duties, but how do you find the perfect real estate agent to sell when the time comes? Continue reading to find out more about this and other related topics.
What does being an executor involve?
The executor of a will can be a solicitor, or it may be a family member. More than one person may be appointed as executor. If your loved one left instructions with a solicitor, then the burden of executing the will is removed. The solicitor will contact all beneficiaries, file for probate, and ensure that the deceased’s outstanding taxes, debts, bills, and other obligations are paid, as well as any money owed to them. The estate is then dispersed according to the testator’s desires.
All of these responsibilities fall on you if you are named executor. You must first obtain a death certificate, which is usually done with the assistance of a funeral director, before making the necessary burial arrangements. In most cases, a person’s funeral expenses are covered by his or her own will. If they are not, the executor arranges with the bank where the deceased’s account is frozen to release the funds, provided they supply an invoice or receipt for the service. Next, you must obtain a grant of probate. Probate is the application to the court to allow the administering of the estate to proceed. The length of probate is defined by each state’s legislation. Guidelines are available online to help you ascertain the relevant laws: QLD, NSW, NT, ACT, VIC, SA, WA, and TAS. Probate in NSW is issued no sooner than six months following the testator’s death. In general, estates take 9–12 months to complete. However, the period of waiting is ultimately dependent on the complexity of the estate. Moreover, when other variables become involved, such as contestations, the process becomes longer.
Once probate is granted, the executor begins collating the estate’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, superannuation, insurance and any money that may be owed. Then the estate’s debts need settling. Outstanding income must be declared to the Australian tax office (ATO), debts paid, electricity bills and utilities reimbursed. After all that is taken care of, the executor disburses the assets to the estate’s beneficiaries as per the testator’s wishes. Bear in mind, the estate itself may be required to pay tax, depending on the total value of the assets.
The executor must be transparent, conscientious, and direct throughout the estate settlement procedure, since any challenges that develop may inflate into major legal complications later on. An executor has a significant amount of responsibility, thus it is critical to confer with someone before appointing them in the will. Changing executors is a separate legal issue that just prolongs the settlement procedure.
Overall, hiring a solicitor is a good idea, especially if the executor wants to avoid dealing with the difficult financial issues and tax complications, as well as potential conflict resolution; more so during a period of mourning. An impartial executor will not be swayed by any family pressures. Likewise, other possibilities, such as a Public Trustee, are available. A Public Trustee can help you with a wide range of estate management issues for a reasonable fee—or even for free if you are entitled to a Centrelink benefit. They are in charge of administering the estate as the executor, and later acting as the trustee, distributing the valuable assets to the beneficiaries.
What if the deceased leaves no will?
The estate is considered “intestate” when somebody dies without leaving a will or naming an executor. In the case of an intestate estate, someone who is entitled to the deceased’s estate may petition the court to be appointed administrator. Otherwise, the court will select the state to act as trustee. The state trustee will then begin by looking up the beneficiaries’ names in the family tree.
After informing the beneficiaries, they will apply to the court for a grant of probate, which will allow them to administer the estate. The trustee will start by identifying all of the deceased’s assets and making contact with banks, financial organisations, and insurers. They will figure out how much the estate owes and transfer any assets to it. They will next schedule an appraisal and evaluation of those assets. After that, they will settle any outstanding debts, pay taxes, bills, and so on before finalising the process of distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. A state trustee can also assist you in drafting a will.
A next of kin can apply to the court for a grant of letters of administration if the deceased person did not leave a will. This is like applying for probate, as a grant of a letter of administration serves the same purpose.
Selling the deceased’s home
The most valuable asset one can leave to somebody is their home. It is the responsibility of the executor to provide an appraisal of the house’s value. The house is then sold, and the proceeds are distributed based on the testator’s stipulations, or else the preferences of the beneficiaries. Naturally, attaining the highest possible sale price is in the best interests of all concerned. To that end, multiple evaluations should be made to ascertain the correct value of the house and land.
If you are the executor of the will, you must provide an appraisal of the house and land for probate to proceed. A qualified real estate agent is required to obtain an accurate appraisal. As market prices in Australian cities rise, even a modest fixer-upper can fetch a surprising sum. Gaining the correct evaluation, as well as having the best understanding of a given market, is in your best interests.
Even if the testator soundly appointed a solicitor to oversee the estate, this is no guarantee that the executor will always assign the best agent(s). A solicitor dealing with deceased estates may have an ongoing relationship with a specific real estate, but that agent may be unfamiliar with the neighbourhood in which the deceased estate is located. And if you as the executor are not au fait with the market, nor so the chosen agent, you should seek the services of a professional.
Nathan encountered this issue in 2019. His father had died a year before, leaving him the entirety of his estate. For more than ten months, probate had been granted. While a portion of his inheritance was paid from the account, the majority of it was tied up pending the sale of the house. The property was in a rural area of New South Wales, where house prices are significantly lower than in the suburbs. Nonetheless, he was irritated by how long the sale was taking. He inquired of the solicitor acting as executor of the estate whether or not the agent was on the ball. It was agreed that the solicitor would switch agencies, and after looking for a better agent, the house quickly sold for $40,000 more than the estimated value.
Settling a deceased estate can be a daunting and time-consuming task. The rigmarole of complicated tax matters, debt settlement and the securing of assets is trying enough, but selling a property adds another level of stress. In most cases, the property was once the family home, and the sentimentality that accompanies not only the cleaning and removal of the deceased’s belongings but letting go of the home and all its memories can exacerbate the emotional journey. As such, appointing an impartial executor is best all around.
Moreover, the property market can be a tricky field to negotiate, and as with finding a competent executor, you will require the perfect agent to sell your home. At this special time, it is important that the real estate agent is not only sensible to both your needs and to the market but is sensitive to the clients.
To find peace of mind you must turn to professionals, and this is where an online agent finder like Perfect Agent will help you find the right agent. Perfect Agent understands their clients’ needs and recommends the real estate agents who offer the best experience and skills. If you need free advice on the best real estate agent for your needs, simply contact Perfect Agent! They will be more than glad to help.