DECEASED ESTATES FAQs
when someone close passes away
Whether you lose your spouse, parent, another family member or a friend, it is never easy, it can be a very emotional time and this can make it hard to know what practical things you need to do next. Our discrete and compassionate team at DECEASED ESTATES prepared the checklist below to help you in this situation.
Please note this information is presented as a general guide only and in no way to be considered legal or definitive advice.
There are 2 options for removing the name of a deceased person from the electoral roll. An online form is available from the website which can be completed by relatives or the registrar of births, deaths and marriages notifies the commission monthly.
Australian Taxation Office
Establishing authority to act
Before dealing with a person’s tax affairs you will need to establish you have the authority to do so. You must be either: an authorised contact, legal representative, executor or court appointed administrator or next of kin.
A will should identify who the executor is.
Notifying the ATO of the death
Once you have established your authority you can use an online form to notify the ATO of the person’s death and advise of the relevant parties acting on behalf of the estate, provided you attend an Australia Post outlet for an interview and present a copy of the death certificate and supporting documents. Alternatively, you can take the documents to an ATO shopfront or mail the ATO certified copies.
Lodging a final tax return
The executor may need to lodge a final tax return and/or prior year returns if they have not been lodged.
You need to lodge a date of death tax return on behalf of the deceased person if they:
- had tax withheld from the income they earned
- earned taxable income exceeding the tax-free threshold
- had tax withheld from interest or dividends because no TFN was quoted to the investment body
- lodged tax returns in prior years (that is, for income years before the income year in which they died)
- should have lodged tax returns in prior years.
Refer to the ATO instruction: Tax return for a deceased person for lodging a tax return. These returns can only be lodged using a paper return and should have the words ‘DECEASED ESTATE’ printed on the top of page one. The executor needs to sign the return on behalf of the deceased person.
You may also need to lodge a trust tax return for a deceased estate. Follow the link for more information.
When someone dies, financial assets held in their name alone, including bank accounts are frozen. Generally, banks will only allow enough funds to be accessed from the deceased estate to meet funeral expenses. You usually need to show the bank the original funeral account/receipt.However, each bank has its own policy on dealing with bank accounts of deceased customers and you will need to contact the relevant bank/s.
Accounts in joint names are not normally frozen but the banks should still be informed so that steps can be taken to make appropriate changes to the account/s and help prevent fraud.
Direct Debits – contact the bank to determine what information they can give out, who to, and whether a freeze has been made on an account. They may be able to provide a report to determine who direct debits were being made to. They may also freeze further direct debits on an open account if it is held solely in the deceased’s name.
Business accounts – could be complex. You may need to seek advice.
If the deceased person was a customer of Centrelink, you will need to let Centrelink know to minimise the likelihood of any overpayments.If you have been caring for a Centrelink customer who has died, you also need to let Centrelink know within 14 days of the change in circumstances. If you were part of a couple and your partner has died, your inheritance (income and assets) may impact on payments you receive or your eligibility to receive them. You may need to update a myGov account as well.
Cancelling a credit card does not automatically cancel direct debits connected to them. You will need to contact the relevant organisations.
A doctor must sign a death certificate confirming that someone has died before any other action in regard to a death can occur. Once this is signed a funeral director can take the deceased into their care.Funeral directors are usually responsible for registering the death and generally apply for a death certificate for you as part of the funeral arrangements. However, it is best to check with your funeral director. Death certificates can also be obtained from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the state or territory in which the death occurred for a fee.
When someone dies, their outstanding debts generally still need to be paid. The executor pays outstanding debts using assets from the estate and then distributes remaining assets according to the deceased’s wishes as set out in their will. If there is sufficient cash in the estate, the executor pays creditors using the cash. If there is insufficient cash, the executor sells assets and uses that money to pay the creditors. If there is not enough money in the estate after all assets are sold, the estate may be insolvent. In this situation it may be wise to seek legal advice.
In only a few situations are others responsible for paying the debts. These include: if the debts are in joint names with someone else, the debts are guaranteed by someone else or the debts are secured against an asset owned by someone else.
Debts owed to the deceased person may need to be followed up to ensure payment to the estate.
The estate is everything owned by the deceased, both assets and liabilities.
The executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes of a deceased person as set out in their will. It can be one or more people.
An executor’s responsibilities may include:
- Locating the will
- Organising the funeral
- Determining and notifying the beneficiaries the person has died and that the estate is to be distributed
- Keeping the beneficiaries informed of progress
- Applying to the Supreme Court for a grant of probate to obtain authority to administer the estate (if necessary)
- Looking after the estate
- Locating and collecting all the assets and identifying all liabilities of the estate.
- Determining the value of the estate
- Keeping all required records and accounts
- Preparing and lodging tax returns
- Preparing accounts including paying any debts, such as funeral expenses, loans, income tax and fees for administering the estate. This may require some assets to be sold.
- Distributing the remainder of the assets to the beneficiaries after all debts have been paid (this may include setting up trusts as specified in the will). These trusts may need ongoing administration over many years.
Before some assets are released to an executor, eg from a bank account, the executor may be asked to prove they have the authority to administer the estate. The grant of probate is proof.
Financial counselling may be offered free to help you organise your finances, plan a budget or, if you are experiencing financial difficulty, help in other ways. A list of counsellors and their locations is available from the moneysmart websiteor see Human Services reference.
Funerals can be expensive. Typical costs involved in arranging a funeral include: funeral director (arranging, planning and conducting a funeral), transport, coffin, death certificate, burial/cremation, cemetery plot, religious person or celebrant, flowers, music, newspaper notice and catering. You will need to find out if the deceased had private health, accident, life or other insurances such as funeral that might provide payments on death that could help with the funeral expenses.
Funeral bonds are managed investments that earn interest to enable a person to accumulate funds to meet their future funeral expenses as the benefit (capital and interest) is only payable on death. The benefit must be used to meet a deceased person’s funeral expenses. As the bond can be paid for in full at the time of purchase or in monthly instalments, depending on how much was paid, it may not cover all the funeral expenses.
The deceased may have nominated a preferred director or prepaid a funeral. You should find out if the deceased had specified any preferences for the funeral including burial or cremation, music and readings during the service, flowers – yes or no, coffin type, religious involvement, pall bearers and donation requests.
Funeral insurance is paid by regular premiums for a fixed amount of cover. Who will benefit from the insurance can be nominated by the policy holder.The amount can be used by beneficiaries to cover funeral and other expenses.
If the deceased has a prepaid funeral plan, it could be for all aspects of the funeral or specific aspects. You will need to approach the funeral director to determine what has been paid for. You will also need to check how much has been paid as it could have been paid in full or still being paid by instalments. The cost of a pre-paid funeral is fixed regardless of price increases. If the person died outside the designated funeral service area you will need to check if a refund is available or other arrangements possible.
If you are experiencing grief following the death of someone close, support services are available. You could contact your GP, a social worker, particularly if they have been involved prior to the death, grief support groups or other organisations such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue and GriefLine. The Department of Human Services provides social work services through counselling, support and information.
Hoarders who have passed away leave behind a huge mess for others to clean up. Relatives and/or friends are faced with overwhelming piles of stuff often accumulated over many years. The items themselves may vary, but for many, the result is the same: the unwanted inheritance of extreme clutter and a dwelling which can be dangerous, unhealthy or both. In these circumstances radical action is often required to get a home back to a liveable state.
If you are time poor - we recognise you are already burdened with organising the funeral, don’t know where to start or simply do not want the job yourself, DECEASED ESTATE offers an experienced and professional service that removes and disposes of waste and unwanted goods and cleans up efficiently and discreetly, using the appropriate equipment. Contact us if you would like help to resolve a hoarding situation, large or small.
Human Services offers a range of payments and services, set out on their website,. These include:
· Bereavement Allowance - a short term income support payment for recently widowed people to help them adjust after the death of their partner
· Bereavement Payment - helps ease your adjustment to changed financial circumstances after the death of your partner, child or person you were caring for
· Double Orphan Pension - provides help with the costs of caring for children who are orphans or who are unable to be cared for by their parents in certain circumstances - there is no income or assets test required
· Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment - a payment to the surviving partner of a deceased member of the Pension Bonus Scheme, who did not make a successful claim for the bonus before their death
· Widow Allowance - ensures women have an adequate income if they have become widowed, divorced or separated later in life, were born on or before 1 July 1955 and have no recent workforce experience
· Social work services - our social workers can help you during difficult times by providing counselling, support, and information
· Financial Information Service - a free, confidential service available to all Australians to help you make informed decisions about investment and financial issues for your current and future needs
· Someone else to deal with us on your behalf - if you would prefer to have someone else deal with us on your behalf about our payments and services, you can authorise a person or organisation to be your nominee or make enquiries only.
There are many types of insurance available and you should determine If the deceased had any insurance policies. Some such as accident, life or funeral might provide payments on death. Life insurance can be part of a superannuation fund, so it is important to check the deceased’s superannuation fund carefully and contact the super fund to find out if they had insurance and how to claim death benefits. Forms may be on the relevant website.
DECEASED ESTATE offers a professional clear up and clean out service for those faced with having to remove unwanted items and junk from recently vacated properties and/or storage units.
Letters of Administration
There are two situations when you might need to apply for letters of administration: If a person dies without a will or If there is a will but the executor has died or unable to act, the will is found to be invalid, or if no executor was appointed in the will,the spouse, de facto partner or other direct family member can apply to the Supreme Court to become the administrator of their estate (ie for letters of administration)’. This person will have the task of finalising the deceased's affairs. See also Executor and Will.
There are organisations offering to remove names from mailing lists. These include:
National Disability Insurance Scheme
A participant in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is considered to have ceased to be a participant in the NDIS when they die. You will need to let the NDIS know if a participant dies. Contact details are on the NDIS site
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney gives a nominated person the legal authority to look after a person’s affairs for them while they are alive. A power of attorney is not valid after a person dies. After death, the executor/administrator assumes responsibility for managing the affairs of the deceased person.
Probate occurs after someone dies. It is an official recognition that a will is legally valid. It is a formal document that confirms the executor and gives them permission to administer the estate.
In some situations probate may not be required, for example: if the estate is small/low valueor assets such as a house are in joint names they will automatically transfer to the surviving joint owner. In other situations a grant of probate will be required, for example: if the estate is large/high value, there is a dispute, an estate’s assets are solely in the deceased person’s name, or an organisation requires probate before they will release funds. This involves the executor applying to the Supreme Court.
If a property is owned with a partner as joint tenants, the property will automatically transfer to the surviving partner on the death of the other partner. If the property is owned as tenancy in common and one of the owner’s dies, their share does not automatically pass to the other owner/s. A deceased tenant in common’s interest becomes part of the estate.
Research thoroughly Capital Gains Tax implications of selling an inherited property.
If there is no will, you may consider contacting the public trustee in your state or territory to see if they will act on behalf of the deceased person.
Shares, Securities and Bonds
The executor or administrator will usually notify the registry, company or broker when a security/share/bond holder dies and request details of the deceased’s holding, dividend details and the requirements to enable the holding to be finalised.
Care should be exercised if you intend to sell shares (or property) inherited to determine capital gains tax implications.
You will need to find out what digital content such as social media accounts are held by the deceased and refer to the individual company/network policies on how they deal with accounts of deceased members. You will need to think about photos, emails, messages and other e accounts held by the deceased person.
If the deceased had superannuation, death benefits would be payable. The amount payable includes the sum in the deceased’s superannuation account at the time of death plus any life insurance cover through the super fund. The benefit is normally paid to the deceased’s dependants.Death benefits must be paid as soon as possible, even for Self-Managed Superannuation Funds, which may have limited cash available and require the selling of some assets.
In very limited situations you can apply to access your superannuation savings early including on compassionate grounds – apply to the Department of Human Services or in cases of severe financial hardship – contact your super fund.
The Department of Veterans Affairs requires notification of the death of a DVA pension recipient as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, a one-off, non-taxable payment may be payable to help with costs following the death. Funeral assistance may also be available.
As part of our clean up/clear out services, we undertake waste removal. If you have cleaned your deceased estate and are left with waste, including rubbish, old furniture or other ‘white elephants’ you don’t want and you don’t know how to dispose of, DECEASED ESTATES can remove them for you.
You need to determine if the person who died has a will. If you’re not sure, look through their important documents/personal belongings, ask family and friends for a copy or contact the accountant or solicitor. A will takes effect when a person dies. It generally sets out how they want their assets to be distributed, trusts to be established, if any donations are to be made and caring for underage children as well as other specific instructions.
If a person has died without a will they are said to have died intestate. The Government has put in place certain rules which provide for the distribution of a deceased person's assets in these circumstances. You may apply to the Court for Letters of Administration to administer the estate. The court appointed administrator pays outstanding bills and taxes from the assets then uses a predetermined formula to distribute the remainder.
Many banks and some stores offer Christmas club accounts. You will need to check with the individual organisations as to how they deal with a Christmas club account held by someone who has died.
‘Layby type’ payments for Christmas hampers are also offered by various companies. You will need to check with the relevant company to find out their policy when a customer dies.
Yes we can help with a Zero-fuss approach
When the death of someone results in family or a property owner having to clean up and/or clear out the deceased’s home, it can be incredibly overwhelming. In addition to the emotional upheaval, it can also be physically draining and time consuming.
We can relieve some of the stress by providing a deceased estate clean up service. This service can range from a complete clean up and clear out of property (houses, apartments, storage units, for example) to organising goods and identifying items of value (sentimental and/or monetary). In either process if items of sentimental value are identified they will be brought to your attention rather than just discarded as being of little intrinsic value. Of course, items of real value uncovered will also be brought to your attention.
If you are not able to personally visit the property or you live far away, we can, with your permission, collect keys from solicitors or real estate agents and assess the property. We can discuss with you what you would like to happen and what we think needs to happen and put together a plan. If you are happy with the plan, we will undertake the work, keeping you up to date with our progress.
Contact our professional team from DECEASED ESTATES to discuss your needs.