Wills and Deceased Estates » Guide for Executors and Beneficiaries

Guide for Executors and Beneficiaries

What is an executor and trustee?

The executor and the trustee is the person or organization who carries out the last wishes in the Will. As appointed executor and trustee, RobertsLaw would have the legal responsibility to ensure that assets are managed appropriately and distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will.

How will we help?

RobertsLaw provides a complete estate administration service. We manage every aspect from the time we first get in touch until everything is finally settled. Our service is professional and independent, but it’s also a very caring and personal service.

We will…

  • Help make sure the last wishes are carried out
  • Guide and advise you through the whole process
  • Understand that you need time to grieve and make decisions
  • Listen to your views and consult you on important decisions
  • Protect and manage your inheritance until we can pass it over
  • Be impartial and fair if there are any issues or disputes
  • Keep you informed at every stage
  • Be there when you need information or advice

OUR APPROACH…

We will listen and consult – and work with everyone to make sure the outcome is fair. You get regular updates and we’ll get in touch if we receive new information, anything changes or if there’s an important decision to make.

Who looks after everything?

When RobertsLaw is appointed as the executor and trustee you only ever have to deal with one person – your estate manager who will guide you through the whole process.

What does the estate manager do?

Your estate manager oversees and manages the administration of the estate from start to finish. They work closely with you and any other beneficiaries to ensure the last wishes in the Will are carried out in a way that is fair to everyone.

It’s their job to listen to your views, consult with you on important decisions, offer impartial advice, mediate if there are any difficulties – and to ensure everything is carried out smoothly and fairly. They will also liaise with anyone else who needs to be involved, make sure things happen when they should and keep you informed all the way.

What sort of people are they?

Our estate managers are highly skilled professionals with broad business skills and extensive experience in managing all types of estates. They are caring people who understand the grief and confusion that follows the death of a loved one.

They are supported in their work by our extensive network of legal, accounting, administration and related investment consultants.

IT’S A RELATIONSHIP BASED ON TRUST

Our estate managers are caring and easy to talk with – and they’re there whenever and wherever you need them.

What are the mains steps?

Our role starts when we learn of your loved one’s death and ends when everything has been given to the beneficiaries. Here are the main steps…

Initial meeting

The first thing we do where possible is meet with you to explain everything involved, seek your views on what should happen and talk about any issues that might affect the estate. We’ll agree on a plan and timetable with you – and usually confirm it all in writing within ten (10) days.

Confirming assets

We’ll contact banks, insurers and others to get full details of what the estate owns (and owes) and arrange for assets to be transferred to estate. We’ll also arrange for valuations, inventories and appraisals, if needed, to help decide what to do with the assets.

Getting Court approval

In most cases we need to apply to the Supreme Court for a grant of administration (probate). This gives us approval to deal with the assets and usually takes about four (4) to five (5) weeks.

Dealing with assets

We must follow any instructions in the Will, but we’ll also seek your views on what you would like us to do with the assets and how you would like things handled. We’ll handle the paperwork and do things like contact agents and close bank accounts. We’ll keep you fully informed of progress and consult with you over any major decision.

Our job also involves making sure the assets are protected (by insurance for instance) and managing them properly until everything’s settled. If the assets are to be held in trust we may manage the assets for some time.

Paying any debts

Before anything can be paid out, the estate must pay any expenses and debts. We handle all the paperwork, including preparing tax returns with the assistance of an accountant if required.

Distributing the estate

Once the expenses and debts are known we can consider distributing the estate. In simple cases we may be able to settle everything at once. But sometimes it can take a while to get everything sorted, for instance if there are assets to be sold. So we may make an interim distribution along the way – then a final distribution is made.

Accounting for everything

When we’ve completed everything we’ll send you a final statement with all the details of what’s been done. It includes details of all the assets, and how they were distributed, debts paid and all costs and expenses.

How long will it take?

In simple cases it may take just a few weeks to settle everything after we get the Court’s approval. It can take a lot longer if there are assets to sell or any legal claims or family issues. But anything urgent is dealt with straight away.

The Main Steps…

Meet with beneficiaries

Confirm assets

 

Get grant to proceed

 

Deal with assets

 

Pay any debts

 

Distribute the estate

 

Accounting for Everything

Explain everything. Get everyone’s views. Prepare and agree on plan.

Find assets. Get confirmation. Arrange valuations.

Apply to court – allow four (4) to five (5) weeks.

Collect assets. Make decisions. Manage assets. Hold in trust or sell and cash in.

Meet funeral costs. Sort out taxes. Pay bills and fees.

Pay any gifts, divide estate. Transfer to beneficiaries.

Prepare Statement. Write to beneficiaries.

What else is involved?

One of our duties if we are appointed as the executor and trustee is to make sure that we take into account certain laws when the estate is being divided up. Here’s a quick overview of the main laws we need to consider.

Þ The Succession Act Qld

Under current Queensland law, the estate of a deceased person must be distributed strictly in accordance with his or her Will.

If the deceased died without a Will (intestate), the estate is divided up in accordance with the specific formula set out in Schedule 2 of the legislation.

As a general rule, if someone has been in a continuous Defacto relationship for two (2) years or more with the deceased, they may be entitled to a substantial portion of the estate. This legislative protection is not needed for a party who was already married at the time of death.

When one partner passes away the other must choose to either accept what they’ve been left in the Will or claim their share under the law. They have six (6) months to decide and must sign certain papers and, in some cases, get legal advice first. We have to hold all the assets and can’t pay anything out for six (6) months if no claim notice is received or until the choice is formally made. There will be delays in settling the estate if a claim is made under the law and, in this event, it could take up to three (3) years to resolve.

This law also says that everyone has a moral obligation to provide for certain people in their Will. If a partner, child grandchild – and, in some cases, a parent or stepchild – has been left out, they could contest the Will.

Indeed, anyone can contest a Will if they were promised a reward in the Will for services (such as housekeeping) and that promise wasn’t kept.

WHAT IF THERE’S AN ISSUE?

We’ll let you know if any of these laws could affect the estate and your inheritance and talk things over with you. Your estate manager can also arrange for independent legal advice if needed.

What does it cost?

Our charges to carry out the last wishes in the Will are based on a mix of hourly rates for the work done by our different staff members. This helps keep costs down.

 

WHO PAYS THE BILL?

The fees are paid out of the estate before everything is shared amongst the beneficiaries.

How do we charge?

Other work is charged at an hourly rate based on how specialized the task is. Simpler tasks cost less than more complex ones (so you’re not paying for one of our lawyers or accountants to do everything at their higher rate). And we only charge for the time it takes to do the work.

It may cost more to wind up an estate if for example, there are a lot of beneficiaries or they’re hard to find, there is property to sell or a lot of assets to deal with (especially if overseas assets are involved), or if there are legal issues or disputes to settle. If assets are to be held in trust after the estate is settled, or if there are young involved, there will also be ongoing fees to manage them. Where we are collecting income for an estate e.g. for any rent received, there is an income handling charge on the gross income received. There may also be costs from other organisations such as banks, Valuers and real estate agents.

Here are some examples…

Our mix of fixed fees and hourly rates based on the nature of the task helps keep costs down. Here are some examples of what it might cost…

  • Jane is single with savings and investments worth $90,000.00. Based on our current fees, her estate will cost around $2,600.00 including GST plus disbursements to finalise.
  • John is also single with investments worth about the same amount – but he also owns a home worth $250,000.00. His estate will cost around $3,900.00 including GST plus disbursements to finalise.
  • Peter and Mary have a jointly owned home worth $300,000.00. Peter has personal savings of $50,000.00 and a life insurance policy worth $100,000.00. If Peter passes away it will cost around $2,600.00 including GST plus disbursements to finalise his estate plus probate costs. If Mary asks us to transfer the joint home into her name at the same time, there would be an extra fee of $380.00 including GST plus disbursements.

If you’d like to know more about our estate administration fees, please contact our administrative staff.

PERSONAL SERVICE…

Our service is personal and caring. And because we settle more estates than anyone else in the Gold Coast we have the experience and expertise to guide you through the whole process.

What if assets are held in trust?

The Will may state that money or assets are to be held in trust for a period of time. As the trustee our role would be to manage these funds or assets on behalf of the beneficiaries in keep with the terms of the Will.

RobertsLaw has skilled people who handle every aspect of financial affairs from managing property and investing funds to take care of the paper work and legal matters. We handle a range of estates and trusts – large and small.

What do we do?

First, we look at the terms of the Will, the type of assets involved and the needs of all the beneficiaries. Then we work out an appropriate strategy for managing the assets and investments. We will review the investment strategy regularly to make sure it continues to meet the beneficiaries’ need.

What are the charges?

The fees charged depend on the nature of the estate and what we are required to do. There are fees for managing the assets and investments and services fees for professional services such as legal work. We’ll be happy to explain the charges and provide an estimate.

WHEN ARE ASSETS HELD IN TRUST?

Assets are held in trust when a beneficiary is under 18, or because the Will has set some other condition that prevents the money being paid out immediately. An asset may also be held in trust if a beneficiary is given a life interest. In this situation, the beneficiary has the right to use the asset and/or income for a period of time determined by the Will, even though they don’t inherit the asset.

How does the trustee invest?

Part of our role may involve investing money. As a trustee we are required by law to invest this money prudently and are guided by the terms of the Will and by the Trusts Act and Succession Act.

The sort of things we must consider are…

  • The needs of all the beneficiaries
  • Diversification – investing a mix of assets
  • How long the trust will run for
  • The income investments are likely to earn
  • The risk of losses from investing
  • The effect of inflation and taxes

Do I have any say?

Yes, if we’re holding money or assets in trust for you, we’ll ask about your needs, investment goals and consider any specific requests. Roberts Law has the final responsibility for managing assets and investments and is required by law to act prudently and in the best interest of all the beneficiaries.

YOU CAN TRUST US TO BE FAIR…

Sometimes there are several beneficiaries with differing needs. It’s our job to make sure everyone’s interests are recognised and dealt with fairly.

What is the investment approach?

We take a portfolio approach. This means investments are spread over different types of assets to balance returns with risks. If long-term growth is a priority, we’ll generally recommend the estate invest more money in growth assets like shares and property. If the investment period is shorter more money is invested in cash and bonds. Investment portfolios are regularly reviewed to make sure they continue to meet the needs of all the beneficiaries.

Of course no investment decision is taken without first receiving its appropriate advice from an accredited financial planner from our panel.

Where is money invested?

When there is money to be invested we normally use a cash management account such as Macquarie Bank if on call or otherwise in a managed investment facility recommended by our nominated financial planner, with security as our overriding consideration.

What about my inheritance?

You may wonder what’s the best thing to do with your inheritance. Should you pay your mortgage off? Would setting up a family trust be a good idea? What about a retirement or investment fund – or perhaps a term deposit? We will talk with you and the financial planner about your goals and can help you decide on any steps needed to protect and make the most of your inheritance.

Are you in a relationship?

Under the Succession Act (Qld) your inheritance is your own separate property. But if you mix it in any way with money or assets you share with your partner if could become relationship – property meaning they would be entitled to a half of it if you split up (or you pass away). We can advise you on how to best protect your inheritance for the future.

IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO TO HELP?

If you have any questions about estates and the types of work we do – or would like to know more about how we can help you after everything is settled, please just ask. You’ll find our people are very knowledgeable and easy to talk with.

Legal terms explained

Here are some terms you might come across – and their plain English meanings. If there’s anything else you’d like explained, please get in touch. We’ll be happy to help.

THIS TERM…

MEANS…

Executor

The person or organisation responsible for carrying out the wishes in the will.

Trustee

The person or organisation responsible for holding or paying our money or assets to the beneficiaries.

Beneficiary

Any person, organisation, trust or charity who will benefit under the Will.

Estate

Everything a person owns or owes at the time of their death.

Grant of administration (or probate)

The Court’s approval giving the executor the right to deal with the estate.

Disbursements

Fees from various organisations that we pay on behalf of the estate (such as bank fees)

Plan of administration

The plan we agree with the beneficiaries setting out how the estate will be managed and settled. It details what will be done, when, and who will do it.

Transmission

This is a legal requirement which allows your executor or trustee to sell or transfer ownership of the property.

Distribution

A payment made, or an asset transferred, to a beneficiary.

Statement of account

The account of how the estate was settled. It shows all the assets, what was done with each one and what each beneficiary received.