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The ‘Infrastructure’ of Estates – Dad’s Journey
Expressing your wishes #5
Continuing on with this series with what happened with my Dad a few years back, when he died. I have already looked at Advance Care Directives, Powers of Attorney, funerals and memorials , and going through the stuff in previous blogs in this series. We now needed to turn our attention to his Estate. As with all of these kinds of articles, this was our experience and is not intended to be advice. Please seek your own professional opinions if you are not sure.
So the Will said that my sister and I would be executors. What unfolded was that I handled all of the nuts and bolts management, as I had experience in finance, as long as I ran everything by my sister before making any decisions. With Estates, you do go on a bit of a journey, and having someone follow through the process to the end is a good idea. In my way of thinking, there is a culture, or ‘infrastructure’ that was established to ensure the smooth running of everything, which could include:
- Probate – authority from the Court to distribute assets to beneficiaries
- The terms of the will – what were the wishes for ‘who got what’
- Realising assets
- Distribution to beneficiaries
As a starting point have multiple CERTIFIED copies of the Death Certificate, as pretty well everyone I spoke to, needed a copy. It is worth getting a couple of certified copies of the Will as well.
Most deceased estates need probate before assets can be distributed. This is in essence an agreed and court approved ‘line in the sand’ as to what assets and liabilities are in the Estate. Having this line, is not only a requirement by parties such as banks and real estate for realisation of assets to take place, but is also protection for the executors. Anyway, I was fully expecting to go through this process, but first the bank, and secondly Dad’s retirement village, said they did not need it. I asked “are you absolutely sure” with the answer coming back “no we don’t need it” and as our family was uncomplicated it was decided we did not need it. Fantastic, no court fees! But for you dear reader SEEK YOUR OWN ADVICE!
While we are on the subject of banks, we needed to open a new bank account in the name of the Estate. This not only took the proceeds from Dad’s existing accounts, but would be the place where all money would come in, and all money go out. We went with the Bank where Dad had his accounts. We found the Bank very helpful, and they walked us through the process, and set up online banking for us.
And as we as individuals lodge tax returns, so does the Estate. We lodged a date of death, final tax return for Dad which incorporated all income earned up to his death. We then needed to apply for a new tax file number for the Estate, which in essence became a trust. A trust, because all an estate is, is a temporary holding spot for distribution to beneficiaries. So as we were proceeding through the various collections of income, I kept track of all the taxable items. By the time the Estate came to an end, we lodged two annual Estate trust tax returns. Dad’s Estate was very simple; even so, we did use a tax accountant to lodge the returns. I can only imagine how complex some estate taxation matters can be, so always use an accountant, who are experts in such matters.
So with this ‘infrastructure’ in place the management of the Estate sprang into action. Dad gave me a loan, while he was still alive, so my sister was paid this out. There as an allowance for money to grandchildren which we worked out and paid into term deposits. Little refunds came in from various sources, we sold Dad’s car, his unit got sold, and bit by bit all that needed to get done, got done, resulting in distributions to myself and sister as the beneficiaries.
This post is intended to give the big picture or ‘infrastructure’ of our experience when managing Dad’s Estate. There were some other little but critical things we discovered on the way through which can wait until the next blog.
The commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional. In this case, definitely legal advice.