Working out assets and debts
What are assets and debts?
'Assets' include all property that a person owns such as a home, money, car, shares, bank accounts, clothing, household furniture and pets. Debts are what a person owes, such as a home loan, personal loan or credit card.
After someone dies, the executor or next of kin will need to make enquiries to find out details of the assets and debts of the deceased.
Once you have gathered all the information, you must work out the value of the assets owned by the deceased.
If you have difficulty finding out details of the deceased's assets and debts, you could contact the deceased person's accountant if they had one.
If you cannot locate information about the deceased's assets and debts, you should get
It is important to find out the assets and debts of the deceased in order to work out whether it is necessary to apply to the Supreme Court of New South Wales for a grant of probate or letters of administration.
For information about applying for probate or letters of administration, see
What to do with the estate.
Calculating the assets and debts of the deceased
There are a number of ways you can find out about assets and debts of the deceased. You may need to search for various documents to calculate the value of assets and debts. You may also need to ask other family members to help you sort through the paperwork to find information about the assets and debts of the deceased.
Look for bank statements, passbooks, debit cards and credit card statements. Write to financial institutions to find out the balance of the deceased's accounts.
If the deceased owned a house, land or unit, you should obtain a title search from NSW Land Registry Services (NSW LRS) or ask a lawyer to obtain one for you. In order to obtain a title search, you will need the lot and plan number for the property which you can get from a council rates notice or the local council, if you know the address of the property. NSW Land Registry Services charges a fee to conduct a title search. You will need to obtain a title search for each property owned by the deceased.
For more information about fees, go to Land Title Fees on the NSW LRS website.
A title search will show you whether the deceased owned the property in their own name or with another person as 'joint tenants' or 'tenants in common'.
The title search will also give you information about whether the property is mortgaged with a bank or financial institution. You can start by checking the deceased's home, make enquiries with the deceased's former solicitor or local solicitors in the area or check if it is held by the bank in safe custody.
From 11 October 2021, NSW LRS will no longer issue a paper Certificate of Title. Ownership of land is recorded electronically on the Torrens Title Register. If you need to lodge a dealing, you will need to see a lawyer or a conveyancer.
If the deceased owned a car, motorcycle, caravan or trailer, you must find out the registration details and insurance policies.
You should also find out the value of the vehicle from a licensed motor dealer or valuer.
Shares and dividends
If the deceased owned shares or dividends, you will need to contact the share registry of the company or Computershare Australia Investor Services to find out the value of the shares.
If the deceased owned a lot of assets you should consider obtaining a professional valuation report for a fee.
If the deceased owned a pet they may have included some information in their will about who will take care of the animal. If the deceased did not have a will or did not provide for their pet in their will, you should get
legal advice. Animals must not be left without proper arrangements for their immediate care and welfare.
You may need to contact your Local Council to check requirements to transfer ownership of registered animals, such as dogs and cats. For more information you can contact the
Office of Local Government.
Some animals cannot be kept as a pet without a licence. If the deceased person's pet is a native Australian animal, including native birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, then you should contact the
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for further information.