How to Manage an Estate After a Death

What to do when dealing with the estate of someone who died

Last updated: 29 November 2016

When a loved one dies, an executor is often named in their will. The executor’s role is to oversee the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries of the will.

The estate of a loved one is considered to be everything owned by them at the time of death. This can include:

  • Finances, including all cash, bank or building society accounts and any life insurance policies
  • Any money indebted to them
  • Shares
  • Real estate property
  • Personal possessions
  • Superannuation

The executor’s first step to manage the estate will be to list all the property and assets that are included in the estate. This is known as an inventory of property.

Obtaining probate

The executor of the will must obtain probate, the legal authority to distribute and manage the estate.

Paying debts

After the executor has been granted probate, they must pay off any debts owed by the estate before any inheritance can be distributed to beneficiaries.

There is a set order in which to pay off the debts of the estate:

The cost of the funeral. You may be able to pay for funeral expenses even before probate is granted. Administration expenses. This may include legal costs and probate fees. Tax, including income tax and capital gains tax. Any other debts.

Distribution of the estate

Once all the estate’s debts have been paid, the executor will prepare a document called the distribution report, detailing any assets that have been sold and debts that have been paid. This report will be given to each beneficiary along with their inheritance.

To learn more about probate, letters of administration, and the role of the executor, visit our managing an estate page.