When someone passes away, their assets, debts, and belongings must be distributed according to their wishes or legal requirements. The process of settling an estate is “Probate.”
If the deceased person had a Will, the executor named in the document is responsible for handling the probate process. If there is no Will, or if the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve, the next of kin takes on this role.
In this article, we discuss the 10 duties of the next of kin in probate in Australia.
1 Apply for probate.
The first duty of the next of kin is to apply for probate.
Probate is a legal process that proves the validity of the deceased’s Will and gives the executor or next of kin the legal authority to administer the estate. The next of kin must submit an application for probate to the Supreme Court in the state or territory where the deceased lived.
2 Identify the assets and debts of the deceased.
When someone passes away, it is the responsibility of their next of kin to identify all their assets and debts. This includes any real estate or property owned by the deceased, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, personal belongings, and any other assets.
Identifying any outstanding debts, such as mortgages, loans, and credit card balances, is also important. The next of kin must inventory of all these assets and debts, as it forms the basis for the probate process.
Accurately identifying all assets and debts is crucial for the distribution of the estate and settling any outstanding obligations.
3 Manage the estate.
The next of kin is responsible for managing the estate throughout the probate process. This includes tasks such as gathering and organizing all the necessary paperwork, communicating with beneficiaries and creditors and managing the estate’s finances.
The next of kin may also need to make decisions regarding the sale of assets or the payment of outstanding debts. It is important to keep detailed records of all the transactions related to the estate and to seek professional advice if necessary.
4 Notify beneficiaries.
The next of kin must notify all beneficiaries named in the deceased’s Will, or if there is no Will, the legal heirs of the deceased’s death. The beneficiaries must receive notification of their entitlements under the Will and the timeline for the distribution of the estate.
5 Distribute the estate.
Once all the debts have been paid, the next of kin is responsible for distributing the estate’s remaining assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the Will or by the rules of intestacy. The next of kin must ensure that the distribution of assets is fair and in accordance with the wishes of the deceased.
It is important to maintain accurate records of all the transactions related to the distribution of the estate, including any receipts or invoices. Distributing the estate is the final step in the probate process and is an important part of bringing closure to the estate.
6 Maintain accurate records.
The next of kin must keep accurate records of all financial transactions related to the estate, including payments made, debts settled, and assets distributed. These records will be necessary when preparing the final tax return for the deceased.
They may even become necessary if there are any legal challenges to the distribution of the estate.
7 Prepare tax returns.
The next of kin is responsible for preparing and filing the deceased’s final tax return. This includes reporting any income earned by the deceased before their death and any income earned by the estate after their death. The next of kin may also need to file estate tax returns, depending on the size and complexity of the estate.
8 Close accounts and cancel services.
As part of the probate process, the next of kin must close any accounts and cancel services that are no longer required. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, utilities, and insurance policies, among others.
Closing these accounts and cancelling services helps prevent any ongoing financial obligations or liabilities that could affect the estate or the beneficiaries. It is also essential to avoid any potential fraudulent activities, such as identity theft or unauthorized access to bank accounts.
By closing accounts and cancelling services, the next of kin can settle the estate as efficiently as possible and ensure the beneficiaries receive their fair share of the assets.
9 Notify government agencies.
The next of kin must notify government agencies, such as Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office, of the deceased’s death. It will ensure stopping any pensions or benefits and settling any outstanding tax obligations.
10 Seek professional advice.
The probate process can be complex and time-consuming, and the next of kin may need to seek professional advice to navigate it successfully. Seeking legal or financial advice ensures that the probate process complies with the law and protects the interests of all beneficiaries.
Professional advice can also be especially important if the estate is large or complex or if there are disputes among beneficiaries.
The duties of the next of kin in probate are important and require careful attention to detail. From managing the estate to distributing assets and settling debts, the next of kin has a critical role in meeting the wishes of the deceased in accordance with the law.
Seeking advice from professionals, such as Probate Consultants, is key to a successful probate process. Overall, fulfilling these duties with diligence and care can help bring closure to the estate and provide peace of mind to all involved.