How Does the Law Change for Small Estates?

Those managing smaller estates may be worried that the value of their assets might be devalued by probate-related fees. This is a fair concern, particularly when these fees have the potential to cut into a significant portion of the estate.

To combat this, legislation in Australia has been purposefully introduced to streamline probate in the instance of small estates. The legislation ensures that the bulk of the estate goes to beneficiaries rather than being diverted to unnecessary fees.

In this blog, Goodman Group Lawyers elaborate as to how this process works and how it can benefit those managing smaller estates.

Relevant legislation

The previously mentioned legislation was introduced due to the relatively high number of people dying and leaving small estates. The Administration and Probate Act of 1958 makes special provisions to allow procedures related to these estates (both testate and intestate) to be simplified.

What constitutes a small estate?

A small estate is defined as being an estate in which the gross of solely owned assets does not exceed $100,000. This is the set value before any necessary debts are deducted and also takes into consideration the indexation rate. To qualify as a small estate, beneficiaries must be the husband or wife or children or the widowed mother of the deceased.

An estate is also eligible if the gross value of solely owned assets does not exceed $100,000 and the beneficiaries are other than the surviving spouse, children or widowed mother of the deceased.

The deceased may also have had unlimited jointly owned assets in addition to these solely owned assets and the estate would still fall under the category of small estate. Jointly owned assets can include things like bank accounts and properties. A grant of probate will only be required to release solely owned funds in this case, with shared bank accounts (for example) not requiring a grant of probate.

How to arrange a grant of representation

For executors or administrators of small estates living in Melbourne, get in touch with the staff of the Small Estates Office to arrange for a grant of representation. For executors or administrators living more than 32 km from the Melbourne GPO, it will be the clerk of the nearest Magistrates’ Court preparing the necessary documents on your behalf.

To file an application through the Small Estates Office with the help of a small estates officer, there is a compulsory fee of $461.

Otherwise, a small general service fee is charged on application, in addition to any relevant filing fees and the Small Estates Branch will pass the grant of probate to the executor, who will then have to complete the administration of the estate by themselves. Wages, money, or assets previously belonging to the deceased can be then paid directly to the executors, immediate family, or person entitled to the estate without probate, provided that the amount due to the deceased does not exceed $25,000.

Require assistance with probate-related affairs?

Understanding Wills, probate and estates can very easily be overwhelming, particularly during times of mourning. If you require assistance from the team of experts at Goodman Group Lawyers, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can answer any questions you might have and clarify some of the more complex legal processes.

In addition to matters such as contested estates and estate planning, Goodman Group Lawyers are also able to help with a wider variety of fields of law, including conveyancing and property law and business law. Contact us to learn more.

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