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Do you need to apply for letters of administration for an estate?

27 Sep 2017

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  • Wills & Estates
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When a loved one passes away, the administration of their estate can be a long and complicated process.

When a person dies intestate, they die without leaving a valid will. In these cases, a next-of-kin might need to be appointed the administrator by applying to the Supreme Court for letters of administration to enable the deceased’s estate to be legally administered.

The Wills & Estate team at Snedden Hall & Gallop, explains when it might be necessary to apply for Letters of Administration. Please see our related blog post on a grant of probate.

Letters of administration: what is it?

A grant of letters of administration is a legal document issued by the Supreme Court that appoints an administrator to administer a deceased person’s estate.

The three main reasons why a grant of letters of administration might be required are:

  1. A person has died without leaving a valid will;
  2. A person had died and has not appoint an executor in their will; or
  3. An executor has been appointed however they are unwilling or unable to act and there is no other person appointed as a joint or substitute executor.

In the event a person dies and has not left a will or other document containing their testamentary intentions, the administrator will be required to administer the deceased’s estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy. These rules are set out in the legislation and basically describe who is entitled to be included in the distribution of the estate and in some circumstances, how much or what portion of the estate that person is entitled to receive.

How do I know if letters of administration are required?

Before an application for letters of administration is filed in the Supreme Court, the next-of-kin (and/or potential administrator) must establish what assets the estate consists of and the individual value of those assets.
When the individual assets reach a certain amount, it is likely that the relevant institutions (such as banks) will require Letters of Administration to be obtained before any dealings with that particular asset can occur. The threshold amount varies from institution to institution and in most instances, you will be notified if a grant is required. It is not enough to simply assume that a grant is required if there is no valid will. The necessary investigations and groundwork still need to be completed to find out exactly what is required by each institution.

If the deceased owned real property solely in their name, Letters of Administration will be required to deal with that asset.

What is the process of obtaining a grant?

Before you can file an application for letters of administration in the Supreme Court, the following steps must be taken by the administrator:

  1. Searches must be conducted to see if any will of the deceased person can be located;
  2. The administrator must advertise their intention to apply for Letters of Administration;
  3. All estate assets and liabilities must be determined;
  4. All other persons eligible to apply for letters of administration must be served with notice of the administrator’s intention to apply for the grant and where possible, consent must be given by the other eligible persons for the administrator to file that application;
  5. All relevant court documents must be drafted and finalised. The application for letters of administration is usually supported by an affidavit of the administrator which outlines:
    • The steps taken to locate any document containing the testamentary intentions of the deceased;
    • Details of any other eligible applicants;
    • The reasons why the applicant is the most appropriate person to be appointed administrator;
    • Other steps taken by the applicant to comply with their obligations; and
    • Where there is no will, details outlining who is entitled in the final distribution of the estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

After the notice of intention to apply is published and the prescribed time has lapsed, the administrator is able to file the application in the Supreme Court.

This list of steps can be daunting for those who are in the role of administrator of an estate. The experienced Wills & Estates team at Snedden Hall & Gallop can manage all these tasks for you.

How long do you have to apply for letters of administration?

If you intend to apply for letters of administration, you must do so within six months of the deceased’s date of death, otherwise, you will need to explain your delay for filing the application.

Experienced Estate Lawyers in the ACT

The law surrounding estates can be complicated. It is essential that you seek legal advice before making an application. Snedden Hall & Gallop’s experienced Wills & Estates team can assist you. We have vast experience in all aspects of estates from planning to probate, estate administration and litigation. Please contact the Wills & Estate team at Snedden Hall & Gallop on (02) 6285 8000 or by email here. In many circumstances, a Grant of Probate is required instead of letters of administration. Please see our related blog post on grant of probate.