Letters of Administration in NSW

LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION IN NSW

The Supreme Court of NSW (The Court) issues a Letter of Administration to legally appoint an applicant as the administrator of a deceased estate. This type of grant is issued where the appointed executor is unavailable to take responsibility for the estate or when the deceased died partially or wholly intestate (i.e. having no will).

What is a Letter of Administration?

The Court can issue Letters of Administration for the estates of people who resided in or owned property in New South Wales. A Letter of Administration is most commonly granted when someone dies intestate. The grant authorises the applicant to assume responsibility for the assets and liabilities of the deceased estate. Asset holders such as government departments and banks will generally release assets to the administrator only after sighting a Letter of Administration.

Where the deceased has a valid will appointing an executor, a Letter of Administration is generally not required. However, when the nominated executors are unable or unwilling to act in the role, an application for a Letter of Administration with the Will Annexed must be made to appoint an administrator.

Who is eligible to apply for a Letter of Administration?

The Probate and Administration Act 1898 lists the categories people eligible to apply. The Court will issue a Letter of Administration to a competent adult who is a potential beneficiary or creditor of the estate (usually a close relative of the deceased such as a spouse or child).

A person living outside Australia cannot apply for a Letter of Administration. If the only eligible beneficiary lives overseas, they must appoint a solicitor to apply for a Letter of Administration in their stead.

If there are several eligible parties, they can either apply jointly, or one beneficiary can apply with the endorsement (by written affidavit) of any other beneficiaries. If the parties cannot agree who should apply for the grant, the Court will assess the merits of the competing claims. In this scenario, the Court generally makes the grant to the deceased’s closest living relative (e.g. their spouse or de facto partner or an adult child).

If assessment of the competing claims is likely to delay administration of the estate, the Court can appoint a special administrator temporarily pending the choice of an actual administrator. A special administrator is not a replacement for an administrator and has limited powers over the estate.

If no relative is willing to apply, the court can appoint the Trustee & Guardian, or accept an application from another interested party (e.g. an estate creditor).

What are an Administrator’s Duties?

The administrator is authorised to manage and protect the deceased estate according to either:

  1. the deceased’s will; or
  2. if the deceased died intestate, according to the laws of intestacy in NSW.

The administrator is responsible for collecting together and valuing the estate’s assets and discharging the estate’s debts. They lodge a final tax return for the deceased and establishes any discretionary trusts according to the will. They are responsible for protecting the estate (e.g. defending it from Court challenges).

How long will an application take to process?

An application may be filed with the Court up to six months after the deceased’s death. A late application may be accepted if:

  1. the Court determines that there is a reasonable excuse for the delay, and
  2. the parties agree to the appointment of the administrator.

The administration of the estate is usually completed within a year of the date of death. However, complexities in the administration, or unreasonable delay by the administrator, may cause delays. If the Court considers that the delay is unreasonable, it may replace the administrator.

An application for a Letter of Administration may take up to 4 months to process depending on how many cases the Court has when the application is filed.

Contact us for advice and assistance in applying for a Letter of Administration.

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