The wills and estates process in NSW is one that's sometimes difficult to navigate, from estate disputes through to testamentary trusts.
However, there is a term that can often appear difficult to understand: Letters of Administration.
What exactly are Letters of Administration?
In the event someone passes away in NSW without leaving a will, then it may be necessary to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration in order to distribute the estate. This Grant is proof that the person named in the Grant, also called the administrator, is entitled to handle the assets. The courts will not grant Letters of Administration to anyone without an interest in the assets of the deceased. In other words, only potential beneficiaries (such as next of kin) can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
It's important to note that this Grant means the administrator has all assets vested in their name, so that they can administer those for the purposes of distributing the Estate to the beneficiaries. The position of the administrator is similar to that of the executor of the Estate (who gets the assets if the deceased dies leaving a valid will). Remember, when a person dies leaving assets in NSW, the assets are deemed to be vested in the NSW Trustee. This is by reason of section 61 of the Probate and Administration Act 1898 (NSW). Therefore if no-one puts their hand up to administer the Estate, the NSW Trustee will administer it instead.
Once this Grant has been obtained, the administrator has a right to transfer the assets of the deceased individual into his or her name, so they're able to carry out their duties.
When do I need Letters of Administration?
You will need to obtain this Grant if you wish to have assets released from a number of bodies in NSW. For example, the following bodies will not release assets unless Letters of Administration have been obtained:
- The Department of Lands;
- Aged Care facilities;
- The Share Registry;
- Some financial institutions.
In the event the deceased only owned joint assets, then it's not necessary to obtain Letters of Administration.
How long does it usually take to obtain Letters of Administration?
There is not set time frame for Letters of Administration, as it will always come down to the current workload of the courts. In many cases, processing times could range from as little as a month to four months.
Another factor that is likely to influence the time frame is the extent of searches made by the potential administrator to locate an existing will, an essential part of the process.
If you'd like to learn more about wills and estates in NSW, with regards to Letters of Administration or perhaps estate planning processes, it's always a good idea to reach out to professional wills and estates lawyers.
There are a number of difficult legal processes that you'll need to understand, and that's where comprehensive assistance is so useful.