First steps in estate administration

An executor will become responsible for any number of tasks during an estate administration, but the following tasks are the most important to take immediately following a death:

  1. Organise the disposal of the body and make funeral arrangements

The law imposes an obligation on an executor and administrator, as well as close family members to ensure that proper arrangements are made for the disposal of the deceased’s body.

Importantly, any wishes of the deceased about how their body should be disposed of should be respected. In particular, you should be aware that the Cremations Act 2003 (Qld) prohibits cremation where the deceased expressed in writing an objection to being cremated.

  1. Secure the home and other property of the deceased

Securing the home or other real property of the deceased usually involves ensuring all doors and windows are closed and the house is securely locked. If keys cannot be located and there are concerns for the security of the property, a locksmith may need to be engaged to change the locks on the property.

If the deceased operated a business, immediate legal advice should be sought to ensure the business can continue to operate (if appropriate).

  1. Insure the property of the deceased

If the deceased owned real property or valuable personal property (for example, motor vehicles), then steps should be taken to make sure adequate insurance is taken out by the executor to protect these assets.

  1. Locate the deceased’s will

Locating the deceased’s will is important as it will confirm the identity of the executor and may provide some direction in making funeral arrangements.

It is important to note that the reasonable costs of the deceased’s funeral are a first charge on the estate.[1]  This means that a person who pays the costs of a funeral has the right to be reimbursed for those costs from the estate before any other payments are made. The executor is responsible for ensuring the payment of the funeral arrangements out of the estate regardless of who paid for it.

[1] Re Wade (1817) 5 Price 621