Estate Administration FAQs

We have compiled a list of some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about estate administration.

If you have any further questions relating to estate administration, please contact your nearest Public Trustee branch or call 1800 068 784.

If you die without making a valid Will, this is called dying “intestate”. State law will then determine how your estate is distributed. Unfortunately, this often means that your estate isn’t distributed according to your wishes.

In Tasmania, distribution is made following the Intestacy Act 2010 formula. In order for the estate to be administered somebody needs to apply to the Court for authority, similar to Probate. This authority is called Letters of Administration and the person authorised is the administrator.

The administrator that the Court selects may not necessarily be the person who you would have selected if a Will was made. The duties of an administrator are similar to an executor and can include paying debts, collecting assets, finalising tax affairs and distributing the assets in accordance with the Intestacy Rules. The administrator must establish the family tree using certificate evidence which may be an expensive and time-consuming task depending on who are the next of kin or if they live overseas.

The Public Trustee can take on this role if next of kin agree to the appointment, but the Public Trustee is not automatically assigned to take on the administrator’s role.

Looking after intestate matters can be a complicated process. The Public Trustee can administer estates when someone else is appointed executor but asks us to take over their role. For those estates where family members are widely scattered or are not close, our genealogy services are highly successful in tracing relatives.

An executor is responsible for the administration of an estate and for carrying out the wishes set in the Will. Being an executor can be a complicated job and requires legal and financial understanding to do it successfully. That’s why many people prefer to appoint professionals such as the Public Trustee, rather than leaving the difficult task to their loved ones.

If your executor acts inappropriately or is not administering the estate carefully and prudently, your beneficiaries can complain to the Supreme Court. This is the only right your beneficiaries will have before your estate is distributed. Also, if your executor obtains an estate by fraud or retains an estate, they can be liable to account to your beneficiaries for the assets of your estate.

There are many steps involved in being an executor.

The duties of an executor may include:

  • locating the Will;
  • making funeral arrangements;
  • meeting with family, legal and business associates;
  • determining the beneficiaries;
  • protecting assets such as ensuring property is insured, business interests are protected, collecting valuables and investing funds;
  • determining assets and debts (prepare statement of assets and debts);
  • applying to the Supreme Court for a grant of Probate of the last Will (Probate is a formal document that confirms the executor and gives them permission to administer the estate);
  • collecting assets;
  • making sure all claims and debts are received, assessed and paid if substantiated;
  • distributing assets according to the terms of the Will, including managing longer term trusts;
  • preparing and managing accounts;
  • preparing and lodging taxation returns;
  • defending litigation if there are any disputes.

Being an executor is a complex and time consuming task, it is wise to appoint a professional executor such as the Public Trustee. This minimises the workload and burden on your family and friends at a difficult time.

The Public Trustee is an expert in estate administration and provides a full range of executor services. With our professional estate managers, accountants and solicitors we are a ‘one stop shop’ for estate administration and are equipped to deal with any issue that may arise.

Benefits of appointing the Public Trustee as your executor

When you appoint the Public Trustee as executor by making your Will with us, you can have peace of mind knowing that we will administer your estate fairly, impartially and in the best interests of all concerned.

We keep beneficiaries informed of the progress during your estate administration, explaining, understanding and consulting with them before any major decisions are made.

  • We carry out your instructions and your dedicated client account manager will ensure the well-being of your beneficiaries is our first concern;
  • We work with banks, insurance companies, real estate agents and all organisations connected with your assets. We arrange payment of any outstanding bills and collect any money that is owed to your estate. If you own a business we will arrange for it to carry on or be sold according to your instructions and in accordance to the law.

This is the most commonly asked and often the most difficult question to answer, due to the circumstances of each estate being unique. Generally the estate administration process can take between 6-12 months. However, this can sometimes take more time depending on the complexity of the estate. The administration process can be quite complex and could involve our team of solicitors and accountants.

The Public Trustee are consultative and will keep your beneficiaries informed during the progress of your estate administration. Our team will explain the situation and consult with them before any major decisions are made. However, your wishes will always be our paramount concern.

In our experience, we have found that the process works best with open communication between families. This is to ensure that a common knowledge and understanding is achieved when distributing your assets.

Public Trustee fees for executor services include the work required to obtain a grant of probate or administration, and the work to administer and distribute the estate. Our fee is based on the value of solely owned assets in the estate. Joint assets such as your home or bank accounts will not attract a fee. Click here to see our fee 

Our fees cover the following steps which are involved in settling an estate. 

  • confirming the Will is valid;
  • meeting with the beneficiaries; 
  • certifying entitlements in the estate; 
  • preparing an administration plan; 
  • preparing applications to the court (for the grant of probate or letters of administration); 
  • liaising with banks to get asset details; 
  • arranging asset valuations and inventories; 
  • sorting out debts; 
  • managing the sale or distribution of assets;
  • preparing a final statement; and 
  • sorting estate records. 

No, the Public Trustee doesn’t automatically sell all the assets in a deceased estate. Before any assets are sold, there will be extensive discussion between your beneficiaries and our team. In some instances, assets such as the family home are not sold; they are transferred directly to the beneficiaries. If a Will requests that real estate is sold, we obtain a valuation and advice from real estate agents to ensure the best possible price. Your beneficiaries will be kept updated and given ample opportunity to provide their feedback regarding the sale process.

How will you involve my beneficiaries?

We will arrange a meeting with your beneficiaries to discuss the administration. At this meeting your beneficiaries will receive a copy of your Will. Beneficiaries who are unable to attend this meeting are sent a copy of the Will. This meeting is where we allocate a dedicated client account manager to manage your estate. Your beneficiaries will have direct contact with the same account manager throughout the administration of your estate.

Probate is essentially an official recognition that a Will is legally valid and gives permission to proceed with administering the estate. An application for a grant of probate is made at the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court. The grant is a document certifying that the Supreme Court recognises the authority of the executor or executors to deal with the estate. The executor can then administer the Will, for example collect assets, pay debts of the deceased and distribute the estate as directed.

If you die without a Will, the grant is called ‘Letters of Administration’.

If you are to die without a Will (intestate) and there is no executor to administer the estate, usually it is your next of kin who will apply for a document called ‘Letters of Administration’. Letters of administration is the Court’s approval for someone to administer the estate of a person who dies without a Will.

In most instances, Letters of administration will be granted to your next of kin e.g. a spouse, domestic partner or child. Alternatively, if you have left a valid Will but your named executor is no longer alive, competent or willing to undertake the responsibilities involved with administering your estate, the Court may appoint someone else e.g. a beneficiary, to administer your estate according to the Will. This is called Letters of Administration with the Will annexed.

Assets jointly held known as ‘joint assets’ do not form part of your estate; they pass by survivorship to the surviving person. Assets held as ‘tenants-in-common’ are only partly owned and can be bequeathed (given) to a nominated beneficiary under your Will.

For example, if a husband and wife own a home as ‘joint tenants’, when one spouse passes away the house would automatically go to the remaining spouse under the survivorship rule.  However, if siblings own a block of land as ‘tenants-in-common’ they can leave their share to whomever they like – it would not automatically pass to each other.

There are two ways assets can be passed on:

  • one is via survivorship (jointly owned assets);
  • the other is through full estate administration. This is where the assets are fully owned by the deceased and passed on in accordance with their wishes.

To obtain a ‘Grant of Probate’, the executor must file various legal documents at the Supreme Court. The documents required include: the original Will, the death certificate and a complete statement of all assets and liabilities of the estate.

For more information go to:

Do you need help administering an estate?

If you are unsure about whether you can achieve all that is asked of you as executor, it makes sense to get help. Remember, it is unlikely the person who has died would have wanted to put you in a difficult or stressful situation.

The Public Trustee are experts in estate administration and provide a full range of executor services with professional estate managers, accountants and solicitors. We are a ‘one stop shop’ for estate administration and are equipped to deal with any issue that may arise.

If you are interested in referring an estate matter to us, please contact your nearest Public Trustee branch or call 1800 068 784.

Many people appoint a friend or relative as their executor, as a way of acknowledging their respect or admiration for that person. However, the reality is that often people can be left with the burden of a loved one’s estate, during a time of grief and distress. Even being the executor of a simple estate can take a considerable amount of time. Being an executor requires knowledge of areas such as law, accounting, business management and finance. This can be an extremely difficult task for an everyday person without this knowledge.  As an executor you may be liable if any issues arise during your management of an estate.

Just because you have been nominated as the executor does not mean you have to accept the role. Taking on the responsibility may not be the right thing for you and it is unlikely that the person who nominated you would have wanted to put you under stress. You are under no legal obligation to accept the appointment. If you don’t wish to act as executor you can ‘renounce’ and transfer the role to an independent professional executor, such as the Public Trustee.

Once a person has obtained a grant of probate, it is generally not possible for that person to renounce the appointment.

The Public Trustee has adopted the following standards in communicating with our clients.


  • When you leave a message we will return your call promptly, but in any event within one working day of receipt of the message
  • Voicemail messages will state if the person you are calling is away for more than one working day and will provide an alternative contact number
  • We will make every effort to provide you with a response as quickly as possible
  • If we are unable to deal with your query we will try to put you in contact with someone who can assist you 


  • We will reply to non-urgent correspondence within 10 working days
  • We will contact you to inform you of progress if a final reply is not issued within 10 working days
  • We will reply to urgent correspondence where possible on the same day, but in any event within 1 working day
  • We will communicate clearly providing you with a response to the matters raised. 


  • We will ensure that our reception and meeting facilities are clean, accessible and maintained to a high standard of comfort and safety
  • We will provide you with the maximum level of privacy possible
  • We will meet you at the appointed time, or let you know if there are any delays and be helpful and courteous in our dealings with you


The Public Trustee places a high level of value on feedback from our clients and also has a formal policy for dealing with any concerns or complaints.


The validity of your Will can be challenged on several grounds. These can include:

  • failure to meet the formal requirements of a Will – such as being signed by the testator and two witnesses;
  • the Will maker (testator) was not of sound mind;
  • the testator was unduly influenced or pressured by another person/s when making the Will – this is called duress. 

In Tasmania, if someone dies and their dependants feel that they are left ‘without adequate provision for proper maintenance and support’ they can make an application for further advancement under the Testators Family Maintenance Act 1912. However, only the following people can make a claim:

  • surviving spouse or partner of deceased;
  • children of the deceased, including adopted and stepchildren;
  • parents of the deceased, if the deceased had no spouse or children; and
  • a divorced spouse or ex-partner who is receiving or entitled to receive maintenance from deceased at the date of death. 

What matters may the Court take into account?

  • The total value of the deceased’s estate;
  • the circumstances and needs of the claimant;
  • whether by current community standards the deceased had an obligation to provide for the claimant;
  • the means and needs of competing beneficiaries and claimants;
  • the character and conduct of the person making the claim;
  • the nature and quality of the relationship between the claimant and the deceased;
  • the reasons of the deceased, as far as they are ascertainable, for leaving his or her property in a particular way.

A claim must be started within three months after the date of probate or letters of administration is granted. However, this period may be extended by the Court.

Being in the class of people who can challenge does not mean that they will be successful. You should talk to our staff about what you can do to minimise the chance of someone challenging your Will.

Sign Up to receive our news

We’ll keep you informed but not overwhelmed.

Follow us

Your feedback

Give us a compliment

Tell us your complaint

Make a suggestion