Often we find that when a client’s loved one has passed away, they will receive assistance in dealing with the funeral from a funeral home, but then aren’t sure of what happens after that.

Clients have a general idea that a grant of probate may be needed, but often are not sure as to what documentation needs to be provided to their lawyer.

When you have your first appointment, the lawyer will want to assess whether there are any problems with the Will and obtain details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities. Most of the time you will not have all of the necessary details and paperwork for that first appointment. That’s fine. But it is useful if you can bring in what documents you might already have, such as:

  • The original Will
  • The death certificate (if available)
  • For any assets, both the most recent statements (or other documentation) and any earlier statements around the date of death e.g.
    • Bank statements
    • Car registration papers
    • Council rates summaries for any real estate
    • Share transaction statements (or voting forms)
  • There may also be some paperwork that you have already received following the death from people or institutions that have been notified of the death, for example:
    • Estimates of repayments for nursing home accommodation bonds or the sale of retirement village units
    • Forms about withdrawing bank funds or making claims on superannuation or life insurance policies
    • Advices about refunds for cancelled insurances, memberships and licences
  • Similarly, statements or other documentation for anything that might have been a liability around the date of death, for example:
    • Mortgage, personal loan and credit card statements
    • Phone, gas, electricity and other utility accounts
    • Pharmacy bills and nursing home/retirement village accommodation charge statements

If you don’t have formal paperwork then you don’t need to wait to receive it before having the first appointment. Some paperwork may not be needed and your lawyer will often need to write off to request additional or different details anyway. If you think there are many assets or liabilities then it can help to bring in a list of the assets and liabilities that you think your loved one owned or owed at the time of their death.

If there are many papers for a single asset, then you shouldn’t need to bring in all of them. This is because the lawyer will generally only need to confirm whether the asset is part of the deceased estate, some specific details identifying the asset and its value as at the date of death.

Items such as jewellery and furniture may not have any supporting paperwork and so often all that you would need is your best estimate of what you think such items are worth collectively (individual values are normally not required unless they are particularly valuable items).

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