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An Intestate Estate: what happens if I die without a Will?

A Will is an important legal document that specifies your wishes to your loved ones after your death. A Will lists your beneficiaries – the people and/or legal entities that benefit from your Will – and an executor – the person you have chosen to carry out your wishes.

Wills can be as simple or as complicated as you wish, but your family and loved ones will always be better off if you have one. Even though every State and Territory has legislation to compensate for a lack of a Will, it will always be a second-best option safety net.

What happens if I die without a Will?

If you were to die without a valid Will, it means you have died ‘intestate’. Therefore, your assets will be classified as an Intestate Estate and your assets will be distributed in line with Part 3 of the Succession Act 1981.

The Act states that in the event of death without a Will, your estate (all money and property owned) will first go to your next of kin (spouse or de facto) and issue (children, grandchildren). If there is no spouse or issue, your estate will go to your parents, sibling(s), nephews and nieces, then grandparents, then uncles, aunts and cousins.

In-laws are not classified as next of kin, neither is a step-parent. They will not be included in the rules for the distribution of your Estate. Consequently, the best way to ensure your Estate is distributed to whom you would like to benefit is to ensure you have a valid and up-to-date Will.

Who administers an Intestate Estate?

The person who takes care of your Estate where there is no Will is called an Administrator. This person has duties such as paying debts, collecting assets, finalising tax affairs and the distribution of assets.

An Administrator does not have authority to deal with an Intestate Estate until the Supreme Court of Queensland – or the states respective Court – has granted them Letters of Administration. In most circumstances, financial institutions will not release assets without sighting the Letters of Administration.

Who receives the Letters of Administration?

When considering an application for Letters of Administration, the Supreme Court must be satisfied that the applicant is the appropriate person to administer the Estate.

The Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999 outlines the order of people who the Court may grant Letters of Administration. The order is as follows:

  • Surviving spouse (including a de facto partner)
  • Children
  • Grandchildren or great grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Children of siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and aunts
  • First cousins
  • Anyone else the Court may appoint

Geldard Sherrington Lawyers has years of experience in estate planning. A valid, up-to-date Will ensures your beneficiaries receive the assets you intend them to receive.

The team at Geldard Sherrington Lawyers are here to help. We can assist you in applying for Letters of Administration in the event of an Intestate Estate and are here to offer legal advice on all matters concerning Wills and Estates.

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