When someone dies, we hope they have a Will, which will mean that there is a known executor or executors, which will make their job as easy as possible by keeping good and accessible records.
The first step is to ensure that your major documents, such as your Will, Title Deeds and any Powers of Attorney and Guardianship appointment are secure. Usually this will mean depositing them with a solicitor or your bank. However, don’t just do this – tell your Executor, your Attorney or guardian where they are! We know of a case where a lady told her parents that she had just made a Will, appointing them as her executors. She did not tell them where it was, or who had prepared it, and on her death it could not be found. Her former husband, with whom she had a poor relationship, ended up as the Administrator, their young son being the sole beneficiary!
When your Executor applies to the Court for Probate of your Will, they have to provide an inventory of your assets and liabilities. It may also be the case that tax returns will have to be lodged, so documents about your finances will be required. We never cease to be amazed at how some people keep – or rather do not keep – that information, but even apart from that documents can be lost, or there may be interference with them.
It will make your Executor’s job so much easier if you have documents or details about investments, bank accounts, tax, liabilities including credit cards, insurances and any other assets safely kept. Do not forget any family loans which may be repayable to the estate, and once again, make sure your Executor knows where all this is kept.
What happens if this information is not readily available? The answer – some painstaking detective work by the executor, or a solicitor or accountant, all of which takes both time and money! The usual starting point is bank statements, which will show any interest or dividends received. If a copy of a tax return is available, it should disclose the same type of information. Real property is easier to trace, because there is an Index of purchasers maintained at the Land Titles Office. Debts or liabilities, will usually be discovered by letters from the lender seeking payment.
Unfortunately in today’s society death is not the only occasion when problems can arise with document and information security. With over a third of relationships failing, a former dearly beloved may find a cache of documents either an irresistible temptation to remove, or something to concealed at any cost. It has even been known for valuable documents to be destroyed in a fit of pique. Divorce can cause as many problems as death!
The lesson of all of this – be organised, and make sure your executor is informed. Just put yourself in their shoes, and ask if your arrangements would satisfy you!
If you haven’t made a Will or need to Contest or Dispute a Will or just need advice on Probate all today for a an appointment closer to home on 9221 0341
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