Letters of Administration

Easing the Painful Process When a Loved One Dies Without a Will

Letters of Administration of Estate

If a family member dies without leaving a Will, their assets and estate cannot be released or distributed — unless you obtain Letters of Administration.

The truth is, losing a loved one is always emotionally painful and upsetting. Even if they have stated clearly their post-life wishes in a Last Will and Testament — dealing with the necessary obligations of Probate and property allocation as the Executor is challenging and stressful.

But, when someone dies without a Will, these issues can be exacerbated. Filing the numerous Letters of Administration forms, addressing requisitions, and following intestacy rules all add additional, and worrying, hurdles.

Falzon Legal will guide you compassionately and professionally through this process.

Experts in Wills and Estates Law, we will navigate you with support and consideration along the Letters of Administration pathway. While we cannot take away the pain of your loss — we can ease your burden.

What Are Letters of Administration?

A Grant of Letters of Administration is a declaration by the Supreme Court that permits an appointed Administrator to gather and then distribute a deceased person’s property and assets — if the person died without a Will.

A Last Will and Testament normally fulfils two key functions — illustrating the deceased’s wishes regarding who receives a share of their estate after death, and declaring an Executor to deal with the distribution of the assets.

But naturally, with no Will, neither of these two areas are clear.

This is problematic. Even if a person decides to take on the responsibility of dividing the estate — it’s highly unlikely that banks and institutions will release any of the deceased’s funds to who is, effectively, an unknown quantity. Even if they are a close relation to the deceased.

Therefore, an Administrator — often the next of kin — needs to be appointed by the court to handle the responsibility of dividing the estate, in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This is achieved through Letters of Administration.

Companies, legal entities, and financial institutions will respect the authority of this court declaration — and allow a third party to take control of the assets.

That said, in some circumstances, an application for Letters of Administration is required even when the deceased has written a Will. This may occur when, the:

  • Executor named in the Will has also passed on.
  • Stated Executor is unwilling to fulfil the role.
  • Will cannot be found. 
  • Will is invalid.
  • Beneficiaries named in the Will have also died.

Who Can Apply for Letters of Administration?

Any application for Letters of Administration must be completed within six months from the date of death.

To be eligible to apply and become the Administrator, you must be a competent adult who is entitled — under intestacy rules — to a share of the estate. In most circumstances, this is a close relative — either a spouse or child of the person who has passed. And, if more than one person is entitled to be the Administrator, they may make a joint application. You, and any joint applicants, must:

  • Be over 18 years of age.
  • Agree to act competently.
  • Be without a criminal conviction.
  • Not be bankrupt.

In rare and extremely unfortunate circumstances, it’s possible that there might be competing claims from family members — naturally, no one wants to be in this position. During the painful time of mourning, it’s heartbreaking to have inter-familial conflicts over the deceased’s belongings.

But, it can happen. Therefore, the court will make a decision on which claim will be successful — nearly always in favour of the closest relative. And, should no family members wish to apply for Letters of Administration — the court may appoint the NSW Trustee & Guardian.

We understand that at emotionally charged periods after a passing — court legalities and documents will be the last things on your mind. And while it is possible in exceptional circumstances, it’s much more simple when completed timely. 

Falzon Legal can remove the stress and confusion. Let us navigate you considerately and patiently through the process.

Considering Applying To Be an Administrator? Speak to Us First

What Are the Duties of Being an Administrator?

    Taking on the role of Administrator carries serious responsibilities that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, it is also an honour and privilege — knowing that to the best of your ability, you will be considerately addressing the legacy of a loved one’s estate.

      Generally speaking, your duties as the Administrator include:

      • Gathering and assessing the value of the estate.
      • Satisfying any outstanding liabilities and debts.
      • Filing a final tax return to the ATO for the estate.
      • Safeguarding the estate from any contests or challenges.
      • Dividing the estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

      Responsibilities vary depending on the particular circumstances of the family, entitled beneficiaries, and the elements of the estate. It’s important to have professional advice early in the Letters of Administration process, to ensure that your duties are performed diligently, considerately, and correctly.

      Intestacy and Letters of Administration?

      A Will clearly explains the deceased’s wishes regarding who receives what from their estate.

      And while an Administrator is responsible for distributing the assets of those who have passed on, they cannot — in the absence of a Will and Executor — make arbitrary decisions on who the beneficiaries are. Naturally, this would be open to abuse, favouritism, and self-serving behaviour.

      Therefore, the Administrator must allocate the estate according to the rules of intestacy. In the most simple terms, it is the order in which relatives are entitled to inherit. Basically, it follows:

      • Spouse of the deceased
      • Children of the deceased
      • Parents of the deceased
      • Deceased’s siblings
      • Nieces and nephews
      • Grandparents
      • Aunts and uncles
      • First cousins
      • No living relations — the estate goes to the State Government

      That said, there are additional factors — such as more than one spouse or de facto spouse and children from current and previous relationships — that can make allocation a little more complex.

      At Falzon Legal, we will expertly guide you through the nuances of intestacy — ensuring that you are protected from future, costly claims.

      Don’t Fall Foul of Intestacy Rules — Speak to Falzon Legal Today

      The Process of Applying for Letters of Administration

      If you’re considering making an application for Letters of Administration — speak to us.

      A complex process, high number of Letters of Administration forms, and insistence by the court that everything is completed without error or omission is challenging.

      One simple mistake and the court will reject the application — leading to upsetting delays at an already emotional time.

      Falzon Legal will not only ensure a smooth pathway towards Granting Letters of Administration — but also give you the support, guidance, and understanding you need.

      That said, these are the basics of applying for Letters of Administration. Bear in mind, these are the rules for NSW — they differ from state to state.

      1. Ensure that no valid Will exists. Or, if one does exist, the Executors are unwilling or unable to perform their duties.

      2. Gather the following required documents:

      • Original Death Certificate.
      • The names, addresses, and ages of persons entitled to be beneficiaries under intestacy.
      • The original Will — in circumstances where the Executors are unable to act.
      • The names, ages and addresses of other people entitled under intestacy.

      3. You may also be required to present the following to the court, to prove the entitlements of any beneficiaries:

      • The deceased’s marriage, birth, and divorce (where applicable) certificates.
      • The birth certificate of all persons with entitlement under intestacy.
      • Any death certificates of persons who would be entitled if they had not died.

      4. Deliver a Notice of Intention to the NSW Online Registry. You must wait 14 days after it is published online to begin the application process.

      5. Obtain, complete, and submit the following forms to the NSW Supreme Court. Be careful, many of these documents may require additional documentation and be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or lawyer.

      • The original Will — if applicable.
      • Form 111 — Summons for Administration.
      • Form 117 — Inventory of Property (two copies).
      • Form 112 — Grant of Administration (two copies).
      • Form 125 — Consent to Administration.
      • Form 41 — Affidavit of Service.
      • Form 119 — Affidavit of Applicant for Administration.
      • Form 126 — Affidavit Was Not In De Facto Relationship, where relevant.

      What Are the Letters of Administration Costs?

      The application fee for applying to the Supreme Court for Letters of Administration varies depending on the value of the deceased’s estate. You will also need to pay for the online notice. Under a stated threshold, the amount due is zero. You can check the current pricing on the official NSW Filing Fees webpage (under Summons for Probate).

      And, if you’re struggling to afford to pay the court fees — it’s possible to apply for a reduction or postponement.

      How Long Does It Take To Achieve a Grant of Letters of Administration?

      The time between the submission of documents and the Grant of Letters of Administration varies — usually dependent on the volume of cases that are currently before the court. We suggest that you allow a period of at least six to ten weeks for the process to be complete. Usually, there is no requirement for you to attend the court.

      However, things may not run that smoothly.

      If you have made an error in your application, or it is incomplete, the court will not proceed. Instead, they will send you a letter — known as a requisition — detailing the problems with the documentation.

      Should this happen, you must then either refile the form, or complete and submit an affidavit to rectify the issue.

      As specialist Wills and Estate Lawyers, we have extensive experience in the preparation and filing Letters of Administration applications. Allowing us to take care of the process will save you both time and money — and deliver a trouble-free service.

      After the Grant of Letters of Administration

      Once you have received authorisation to act as the Administrator, you can then attend to your duties. Banks and institutions will permit access to assets and funds with the Letters of Administration.

      Remember, being the Administrator carries legal responsibilities.

      All beneficiaries are entitled to check that you are fulfilling your duties. If you fail to do so — it’s possible that you may be liable to pay financial compensation. Therefore, always take legal advice from a professional to ensure that you complete your responsibilities diligently.

      At Falzon Legal, we will supportively guide you through the process — providing experience and encouragement in your role.

      While all circumstances are nuanced and particular, the tasks you need to complete are generally:

      • Gathering the assets together — known as calling in. This involves not just making an inventory of physical assets, but also gaining the funds from the deceased’s bank.
      • Paying off the debts of the person who has passed.
      • Speaking to an advisor to see if a final tax return for the deceased needs to be completed.
      • Publishing a Notice of Intended Distribution — this isn’t a requirement, but may protect you from future claims.
      • Dividing and distributing the estate according to the rules of intestacy — money gifts must be made within 12 months, otherwise, the beneficiary can claim interest.

      Falzon Legal — Your Letters of Administration Specialists

      A loved one passing on is heartbreaking — but if they haven’t left a Will, you may be the one who needs to cope with the additional stress and worry of Letters of Administration.

      You don’t have to face this alone.

      At Falzon Legal, we have guided, supported, and navigated hundreds of loving spouses, children, and relatives through this process. Easing your burden at a painful time, we will ensure a smooth pathway towards resolution.

      Ceaselessly understanding of your wellbeing and concerns — yet relentlessly professional in the application and granting process — we will help you successfully distribute your loved one’s estate in a considerate and timely manner.

      Whether you wish to meet in our Parramatta office — or in your home — you’re assured the pinnacle of attention in applying for the Letter of Administration.

      Letters of Administration FAQs

      Why Is It Better To Have a Will Than Apply for Letters of Administration?

      Writing a Will is beneficial for you and your loved ones — as opposed to passing on and requiring Letters of Administration for your estate.

      The advantages include:

      • Choosing your beneficiaries — an Administrator must allocate your estate following intestacy rules.
      • Preventing confusion when you pass on.
      • Saving loved ones the stress, cost, and confusion of the application process.
      • Appointing a willing Executor instead of a reluctant Administrator.
      • More time and cost-effective than pursuing Letters of Administration.

      What Is the Difference Between Probate vs Letters of Administration?

      Probate is a legal decree by the court that declares a Will to be valid, and permits the Executor to distribute the estate according to the deceased’s wishes.

      This is similar to a Letter of Administration, when there is no Will. It allows the Administrator to allocate the property of the person who has passed to beneficiaries following the rules of intestacy.

      Can Letters of Administration Be Revoked?

      Yes. The court may revoke a Letter of Administration when:

      • Granting was provided based upon lies or falsehoods.
      • The alleged deceased isn’t actually dead.
      • The Grant was issued after the applicant died.
      • The Administrator wishes to give up their role.
      • Other grounds the court sees fit.

      I Have a Letter of Administration, but Without Will — Can I Distribute the Estate?

      Yes. A Grant of Letter of Administration permits the court-appointed Administrator to collate and distribute the estate of the deceased. This must be in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

      Do You Need a Will To Obtain Letters of Administration?

      Usually, an application is made for Letters of Administration because there is no Will.

      However, in some circumstances — such as a Will being found to be invalid, or the named Executors are unable to fulfil their duties — the original Will must be provided to the court to apply for Letters of Administration.

      Can the Government Be an Administrator When No Will?

      Should no entitled persons apply for Letters of Administration, in NSW the court may appoint the State Trustee and Guardian.

      Can a Spouse Apply for Letters of Administration?

      Yes. Any person who is entitled to a share of the deceased’s estate can apply for Letters of Administration.

      Don’t See Your Letters of Administration Question Above? Get in Touch