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After you have gathered information about the assets and debts of the deceased, you need to work out how to deal with the estate, including paying debts, and distributing the property and personal belongings of the deceased. The process you will need to follow depends on whether or not the deceased had a will.
If you are an executor in the deceased's will, you have certain duties to protect the estate. The most important duties of the executor include:
For more information, see
Applying for probate.
If you are named as an executor and you do not want to act as executor, you can complete and file a Renunciation of Probate form with the Supreme
Court of NSW. For more information, see When an executor is unwilling or unable to act.
If you are a beneficiary under a will, next of kin or relative of the deceased and the executor is unable or unwilling to apply for probate, you should get
legal advice or contact the
NSW Trustee & Guardian. For more information, see When an executor is unwilling or unable to act.
If you are a next of kin, relative or close friend of the deceased, you may apply to the Supreme Court of NSW for letters of administration to distribute the deceased's estate where:
For more information, see
Applying for letters of administration.
Sometimes a grant of probate or letters of administration may not be needed. For example, a grant is usually not needed where:
In circumstances where the value of the estate is small and only includes personal property, such as clothing, furniture and jewellery, a grant may not be needed.
If probate or administration is not needed, the next of kin can distribute the estate after dealing with the deceased's debts. For more information see,
Dealing with the estate debts and
Distributing the estate.
It is a good idea to find out the market value of the assets owned by the deceased so that you can decide whether to apply for a grant of probate or letters of administration.
You should get
legal advice if you are not sure whether you should apply for probate or administration.
If you are an executor or next of kin, you may wish to get legal advice from a lawyer. A lawyer can assist you to obtain a grant of probate or letters of administration from the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
Before you make an appointment to see a lawyer, you should consider:
In NSW, the amount a lawyer can charge for work they do up to obtaining the grant of probate or letters of administration is set by law. The set fees are based on the value of the estate.
For more information on the set fees, go to schedule 3 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Regulation 2015 on the
NSW legislation website.
It is important to remember that the set fees do not include:
A lawyer must provide you with a costs agreement and disclosure in writing.
Before going to see the lawyer, it is useful to gather information about all assets and debts of the deceased. You should take copies of all important documents, including financial statements, the will and the death certificate.
Checklist: Preparing to see a lawyer
For more information about lawyers, see the
Dealing with your lawyer topic on our website.
State Library NSW - Rest assured: a legal guide to wills, estates and funerals in New South Wales
NSW Trustee & Guardian
Supreme Court of NSW