The probate process can be lengthy and frustrating for beneficiaries waiting to receive their inheritance. Depending on the complexity of the estate and the efficiency of the probate court, winding up a deceased person’s affairs can take over a year in some cases. Fortunately, there are techniques executors and administrators can utilise to help move probate in Australia along more quickly. Here are tips for closing an estate faster and avoiding common delays.
File the Will Swiftly and Ensure Accuracy
After the death of the testator (the individual who made the will), promptly bringing the signed and valid will to the local probate court is key. This officially opens probate and gets the legal proceedings underway. Ensure all documents are complete and accurately filled out – something as minor as a signature date error can slow things down. Provide a reliable contact address for yourself as executor so the court can easily get in touch.
Stay Organised With Record Keeping
Probate in Victoria involves extensive documentation about assets, deductions to the estate, creditor claim resolutions, taxes and more. Keep meticulous financial records about any income or disbursements from estate accounts. Track interactions with banks, insurance companies, or other agencies. Keep copies of all submitted forms and correspondence. This level of organisation helps you promptly address any questions or requests for additional documents.
Use Alternatives for Some Assets
Another major timesaver is using transfer on death provisions and payable on death accounts so that some financial assets pass directly to beneficiaries rather than going through probate. For example, registering stocks/mutual funds or bank accounts with TOD or POD designations enables quick access to those funds after the original owner’s demise. File life insurance claims rapidly so proceeds get paid out in weeks rather than months later.
Pay Close Attention to Deadlines
As executor, you’ll need to meet many deadlines for the submission of paperwork – particularly state and federal estate tax returns. File for applicable tax extensions if meeting deadlines will be impossible. Send creditor notices promptly and track response deadlines meticulously. Ask the probate court clerk what other major impending deadlines you should be aware of so nothing gets missed.
Resolve Any Will Contests Efficiently
When family members or other parties decide to legally contest the validity of a will, that can greatly extend the timeline before beneficiaries get their proper distributions. Try to have calm conversations with any dissatisfied relatives to see whether their issues can be resolved without initiating expensive litigation. Quick mediation is something to consider. If full-on contests get filed, work closely with your probate attorney to address the opponent’s legal arguments as rapidly as possible.
Communicate Regularly with Beneficiaries
Frustration over delays often stems from beneficiaries feeling left in the dark about the process of probate in Australia. Frequently update heirs about the status of estate settlement and what needs to happen next. Field their questions and concerns – even basic inquiries you now find tedious after months handling probate. Managing expectations can reduce pressure to wrap up before you reasonably can.
Get Organised Before Filing
Informal pre-planning is invaluable for making probate proceed faster later. Months before a death, organise financial statements and account details. Know where originals of the will, trusts, deeds, and insurance policies are kept so they can be accessed promptly. Make a list of contacts like legal/financial advisors. Discuss intentions with potential executors. Quick access to organised information prevents a painful scramble after someone passes away.
Consider Consolidating Assets
Those with complex asset structures across numerous financial institutions may benefit from consolidating accounts under a centralised management plan. This simplification ahead of time can ease documentation and tracking burdens during probate in Sydney. Coordinating with fewer organisations ultimately saves effort and delays.
Liquidate Illiquid Assets Sooner
A decedent’s ownership stake in a small business, real estate, car collections and other illiquid assets sometimes force an estate to stay open for years as such holdings get valued and sold off. Ask the probate court about options for accelerated disposition of those assets even if that means lower sale prices. Removing those complexities faster lets residual estate matters conclude sooner.
Employ Professionals Strategically
Specialised probate attorneys and CPAs serve as tremendous resources for navigating intricate legal and tax elements of estate settlement. Seek their counsel to use procedures and filing strategies that expedite processes whenever possible. Be cautious about taking on substantial estate matters without sufficient guidance. Paying for expertise is wise to resolve issues correctly the first time. Managing complex liquidations solo often takes longer. Lean on your experienced support team.
Hire an Experienced Probate Referee
Many states require an independent probate referee to appraise estate assets before distribution to heirs. A referee estimates the fair market value of real estate, businesses, vehicles, collectibles, and other illiquid assets that need to be sold. This helps determine accurate taxes and cut proper checks to beneficiaries. An overwhelmed executor managing estate sales themselves can severely slow things down.
Instead, hire an established local probate referee, like Probate Consultants, who can swiftly handle property valuations and sales. Choose a referee familiar with state laws and timelines. Ask if they handle sales directly or work with reputable estate sale agents. Ensure appraisals are completed expediently. An experienced referee understands both probate court expectations and the marketplace. They will market properties competitively and have interested buyers lined up immediately. That facilitates quicker offers, deals, and closings. Pay the standard commission reasonable referees charge – it saves substantial time versus selling assets yourself.
It is not unusual for probate proceedings to carry on for 12-18 months after someone passes away. However, by being organised, meeting deadlines, staying in touch with heirs and professionals, plus simplifying assets early on, executors and administrators can help complete even medium-to-large estate settlements more rapidly. Follow this guidance to help minimise frustrations over unusual probate delays.