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This article was written by Dr Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade working in higher education, Nicola joined Armstrong Legal in 2020.

Letters of Administration (Vic)


The Probate Office of the Supreme Court of Victoria issues several different types of Letters of Administration for deceased estates. A Letter of Administration authorises an administrator to legally assume control of the estate and function much like an executor to manage the affairs of the deceased. The Administration and Probate Act 1958 legislates for several types of grants, including the Letters of Administration and the Letters of Administration With The Will Annexed. This article looks at the difference between the two kinds of Letters of Administration and defines the circumstances when each is warranted.

Who Can Apply For Letters Of Administration In Victoria?

An applicant for a probate grant must be a competent adult, capable of managing sometimes quite complicated administrative and statutory matters. A joint application can be filed if more than one eligible person wishes to share the responsibilities of the estate administration. Victorian legislation does not specifically list the people who can apply for Letters of Administration, but common law precedent establishes that the grant is typically awarded to the deceased’s next of kin. This generally means that the court issues the grant to the spouse, de facto or domestic partner of the deceased, or the deceased’s child. In the absence of a willing or capable next of kin, the court can grant administration to any suitable person that is deemed fit to assume responsibility.

When Are Letters Of Administration Required?

Letters of Administration are required when an application for a Grant of Probate is inappropriate, because the deceased died intestate (without a will), partially intestate, or because the appointed executor is unable or disinclined to assume the duties of estate administration.

The Letters of Administration are a court order that confirms that a specific person is legally authorised to act on behalf of the deceased estate. Government departments and financial institutions will typically require this document before they will speak with the administrator about the deceased estate or release assets.

When Are Letters Of Administration Not Required?

There may be no need to apply in respect of a deceased estate that has few or no assets. If the deceased only owned property and bank accounts jointly with another person, then their assets are automatically transferred to the surviving owner.

In those circumstances, the person in charge of wrapping up the deceased’s affairs must check with the holders of the deceased’s assets, such as the banks and superannuation funds, to ascertain whether the assets can be released without Letters of Administration.

Duties

The duties of an administrator depend on whether there is a valid will on hand. If there is a will, the administrator will follow the deceased’s wishes. If the deceased is intestate, they will distribute the estate according to intestacy rules.

The main responsibilities of the administrator remain the same in both situations, as an administrator is tasked with collecting together the assets of the estate, making an account of the liabilities and filing a last tax return on behalf of the deceased. They must also ensure that the estate is protected from loss or damage, and defend the estate from legal challenge or contest in court if required.

How To Apply

A prospective administrator needs to follow certain steps before applying for Letters of Administration, starting with locating the latest will of the deceased. They must then obtain an original death certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria, and publish a Notice of Intention to apply for Letters of Administration on the Victorian POAS (Probate Online Advertising System). Once the statutory waiting period of 14 days is over, an application can be made to the Probate Office of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Costs

There are fees associated with filing for a probate grant in Victoria. The cost of filing Letters of Administration in Victoria varies depending on the gross value of the estate. The fees are updated annually so it is best to check the court website for the most recent fee list, current fees can be found here.

Time Limits That Apply To Letters Of Administration In Victoria

An application for Letters of Administration should be filed within three months of the deceased’s death. An application for Letters of Administration will usually be processed in a few weeks unless the application is missing essential information, in which case the process will be significantly delayed. The solicitors at Armstrong Legal can assist you with the application to ensure that the process is as efficient as possible.

The experienced wills and estates team at Armstrong Legal can advise you on the type of Letters of Administration that are required in your particular circumstances. It may even be possible to arrange matters for the deceased estate without a grant of probate. Please contact our office on 1300 038 223 or message us for advice or assistance in making an application for Letters of Administration.

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