Where the deceased does not leave a valid will
A person who dies without leaving a A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. is said to have died Without a will. A person is said to have died intestate if they die without making a will. Their property is then distributed to the nearest relatives in a set order according to law., and the All the property a person has, including real property and personal property. It is often used to describe property belonging to someone who has died, or the property of a bankrupt. passes to the next of kin according to a special Found in a statute of delegated legislation. For example, a statutory authority or body is aperson or organisation that has special powers given by parliament to do work for the public benefit. order that is set out below.
This also occurs when the deceased leaves a will that only distributes part of the estate (in which case the deceased is said to have died partially intestate) or where a will is made but is for some reason ineffective. The most common form of intestacy is where no will is made. Where there is an intestacy, A document that gives a person authority to manage the property of a person who has died without making a valid will that covers all their estate. See also intestate., not probate, must be applied for.
The Administration and Probate and Other Acts A change made to a legal document or Act of parliament. (Succession and Related Matters) A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. 2017 (Vic) has changed the statutory order of inheritance for deaths after 1 November 2017 (see pt 1A A&P Act).
For deaths before 1 November 2017, the order of the distribution of inheritance remains unchanged, as set out below.
The major changes for deaths after 1 November 2017 are broadly as follows. If a person dies intestate leaving a spouse but no child(ren), the surviving spouse, as defined by the A&P Act (s 70J), takes the entire estate.
|If an intestate dies leaving only …||Property would be divided …|
|Spouse or domestic partner|
|1||and no issue*||all goes to the spouse or domestic partner|
|2||and no issue but other relations||all goes to the spouse or domestic partner|
|3||and issue||personal chattels and first $100 000 and interest thereon at 2.5 per cent p.a. – less the proclaimed penalty interest rate to date of payment – to partner; then balance one-third to partner, two-thirds to the issue to be distributed between them as set out in points 5 to 9, below|
1 The surviving spouse/domestic partner has a statutory option to purchase the matrimonial home at market value (s 37A A&P Act).
2 For a definition of ‘domestic partner’, see ‘Disadvantages of intestacy’ in main text, below.
3 If deceased has both a spouse and a domestic partner at death, section 51A of the A&P Act divides the ‘spouse’ share between them on a sliding scale according to the length of the relationship with the domestic partner.
|4||and issue and other relations||as in point 3, above|
|Issue only (not step-issue)|
|5||if all children||equally between such children|
|6||if children and grandchildren only||estate is divided into as many shares as there are living children and deceased children who have left issue|
|7||if grandchildren only||between grandchildren who are entitled to it in equal shares according to the number of stocks of descents (i.e. the descendants of a deceased child take out that child’s share between them – this is called per stirpes distribution)|
|8||if grandchildren and great-grandchildren only||equally per stirpes; these issue take between them the share their parent would have taken if living at the death of the intestate|
|9||if great-grandchildren only||as in point 8, above|
|Father||all to father|
|10||and/or grandparents and/or collaterals (descendants from a common ancestry, e.g. brothers, sisters, cousins)||all to father|
|11||and children (no other issue)||equally to children|
|12||and issue and grandparents||all to issue, as in points 5 to 9, above|
|13||and mother||equally between father and mother|
|14||and mother and grandparents and/or collaterals||equally between father and mother|
|15||and issue||all to issue, as in points 5 to 9, above|
|16||and other relations||as in points 10 to 15 above, with necessary ‘mother’/’father’ substitutions|
|Brothers and/or sisters||equally between brothers and sisters|
|17||and grandparents and/or uncles and/or aunts||equally between brothers and sisters|
|18||and nephews and/or nieces (children of deceased brothers and sisters)||estate divided into as many parts as there are living brothers and sisters, and deceased brothers and sisters who have left children; one share goes to each living brother and sister, and one to the child (if more than one, to them equally) of each deceased brother and sister|
|19||and the same and grandparents and/or uncles and/or aunts||as in point 18, above|
|Nephews and/or nieces||equally among all entitled to the estate (per capita, not per stirpes)|
|20||and grandparents cousins||equally between grandparents|
|21||and uncles and/or aunts||equally between nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts per capita|
|22||and uncles and/or aunts and grandparents and cousins||equally between grandparents|
|Grandparents||equally between grandparents|
|23||and uncles and/or aunts and/or cousins||equally between grandparents|
|Uncles and/or aunts||equally between uncles and aunts per capita|
|24||and cousins (children of deceased uncles or aunts)||equally between the cousins per capita|
|25||and children of deceased||as in point 24, above|
|26||and grandnephews and/or grandnieces||equally between cousins and grandnephews and grandnieces per capita|
|More remote next of kin||equally between next of kin of equal degree per capita|
|No relations||all to the (1) A common term for the legal power and authority of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. (2) Another name for the prosecution in a criminal trial.|
The distribution of an intestate’s estate to the next of kin under the provisions of the A&P Act for deaths before 1 November 2017
Note: * ‘Issue’ means children, grandchildren and/or great-grandchildren.
If a person dies intestate leaving a spouse and a child(ren), the spouse takes:
- the statutory legacy of $451 909 (indexed to CPI from 1 July 2019) (s 70M A&P Act);
- personal chattels;
- interest on the statutory legacy as provided by the A&P Act;
- one-half of the balance of the estate over those amounts.
The children of the deceased share equally the other half of the residuary estate (ss 70K, 70L A&P Act).
The ranking of more remote next of kin who are entitled to an intestate estate has not altered from the previous scheme in force for deaths before 1 November 2017. However, no next of kin more remote than a first cousin can take an interest in an intestate estate where the intestate died after 1 November 2017. If there is no next of kin who is more closely related than a first cousin, the estate passes entirely to the State of Victoria.
Division 5, Part 1A of the A&P Act (ss 90Z–ZE A&P Act) details who is entitled to an intestate estate where the deceased had more than one spouse or domestic partner at the time of death.
For deaths after 1 November 2017, the next of kin must survive the deceased by 30 days. For deaths after 1 November 2017, intestate estates are not held upon A type of property ownership or arrangement where one party, known as the trustee, holds property or money for the benefit of another party, referred to as the beneficiary. for sale.
This is a complex area of law, especially where there is more than one domestic partner, so it is recommended that legal advice be obtained.
Finding the will
On many occasions members of the deceased’s family do not know whether the deceased left a will or, if so, where it can be found. If the will is not with
the deceased’s personal papers, checks should be made with the deceased’s bank, A legal practitioner (lawyer) who sees clients and opens files to deal with their legal matters but usually does not appear in court. See also barrister., accountant or a likely trustee company. Advertisements should be placed in a daily newspaper and in the Law Institute Journal (at www.liv.asn.au).
Disadvantages of intestacy
The main disadvantage of intestacy is that the deceased has no control over the distribution of their estate. The estate must be strictly distributed among the deceased’s nearest blood relatives, whether they were close to the A person who makes a will. or not. The estate must be divided in specific fixed proportions depending on the blood or A relationship where people live together as a couple or a family. This describes people’s living arrangements, not their marital status. A domestic relationship can be registered in Victoria. between the deceased and their family members. The table on the previous page explains the distribution of an intestate’s estate prior to 1 November 2017, to the appropriate next of kin. As can be seen, this statutory order is fixed, and no special account can be taken of particular wishes of the deceased, or the needs or claims of family members. Note that:
1 Since 8 November 2001, inheritance rights in respect to intestate estates have been given to domestic partners (s 51A A&P Act). Section 3 of the A&P Act defines a ‘domestic partner’ as a person who, although not married, is living with a person as a couple on a genuine domestic basis, irrespective of gender, and either:
a is registered as a domestic partner under the Relationships Act;
b lived with the person continuously for a period of two years immediately before the person’s death; or
c is the parent of a child under 18 with the deceased at the time of the person’s death.
The Relationships Act (s 35(2)) and the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (s 4AA) set out the factors to be considered in evaluating whether a domestic relationship exists. In many cases, a de facto or same-sex partner will rank as the spouse of an intestate partner and in some cases will displace the entitlements of a spouse (s 51A A&P Act). Legal advice should be taken as to whether the A&P Act applies in any specific case.
2 ‘Children’ include illegitimate children where a person dies after the commencement of the Status of Children Act 1974 (Vic) (‘SoC Act’) (i.e. after 1 March 1975) provided that paternity has been expressly or impliedly admitted or has been established against the father in his lifetime or the parents of the child were married to each other at the time of its conception or at some subsequent time (s 7 SoC Act).
An additional disadvantage of intestacy is that confusion can arise over who should apply for administration. The An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate. has a very wide Power to choose whether to do something or not. For example, a judge may have discretion to allow a party extra time to complete a document if it would be unfair to enforce the legal time limit. as to whom it will grant administration, but in most cases whoever has the largest share in the estate is considered the most suitable. If another applicant applies early and is able to take out administration immediately, that applicant may succeed.
The provisions of Part IA of the A&P Act (ss 70A–70ZL) stipulate how the assets of the deceased person who died after 1 November 2017 shall be administered. For example, the assets of an intestate deceased who died before 1 November 2017 are held in trust for sale by the A&P Act and must be sold. This requirement may not be appropriate in many circumstances. For deaths after 1 November 2017, the (1) (wills) Someone who takes legal responsibility for the possessions of a person who has died without making a will, or who is still alive but cannot manage their own possessions. For example, an administrator may be appointed to manage the money, house or other possessions of a person who has a severe mental disability. (2) (companies) A manager appointed by the directors of a company that is in financial difficulty. This may give creditors a better chance of getting their money back because the company can keep trading under supervised management instead of being wound up. has a discretion as to whether assets should be sold or transferred to the beneficiaries and the estate is no longer required to be held on trust for sale.
Procedure for application for letters of administration
As with an application for probate, an advertisement indicating an intention to apply for letters of administration after the expiration of 14 days is published on the Probate Office’s Online Advertising System website (www.supremecourt.vic.gov.au/wills-and-probate).
As with probate applications, after 1 July 2020, all applications for letters of administration must be lodged online through the Supreme Court’s website.
The following documents must be lodged electronically at the Probate Office in accordance with the current directions set out on the Supreme Court’s website:
- A document that presents written evidence in a court case, setting out what a witness says is true. The witness must swear that it is true and correct in front of an authorised official. This can be done on oath or by affirmation. The person in whose name the document is sworn is called the deponent. in support of the application sworn by the person applying for administration together with a full death certificate and a list of the deceased’s assets;
- affidavit of publication and searches are now made and filed by the Probate Office;
- surety’s A binding promise made as reassurance that another person will carry out their legal obligations (e.g. paying a debt). The person making the promise is called a guarantor. If the person being guaranteed fails to pay, the guarantor becomes responsible for the debt. or insurance (1) An undertaking by someone to do or not do something, especially a good behaviour bond, which can be part of a sentence given by a court. (2) A tenant’s payment of money to a landlord at the start of a tenancy. The bond is held in case there is any damage to the property or the tenant fails to pay rent. (if required);
- The application that starts a court proceeding. The process, which is different for different courts, is set out in rules made by the court. Also called the originating process.;
- order for letters of administration.
When the order for letters of administration is made, the court will advise by email of the grant.
As a condition of granting letters of admin-istration to an applicant, the court, or The officer in charge of the administrative section of a court, which is known as the registry. See also prothonotary. of probates, may require one or more sureties or an insurance bond.
These sureties are to guarantee that they or the insurance company will make good, in an amount not exceeding the amount of the deceased’s property as sworn, any loss that any person interested in the administration of the estate may suffer as a result of a breach by the administrator of duties (s 57 A&P Act). The question whether sureties are required or not is governed by the A&P Rules.
Order 7.01 provides that a guarantee under section 57 of the A&P Act is not required except where it is proposed to grant administration:
- to a The person or organisation to whom a debtor owes a debt. of the deceased or the legal representative of such a creditor;
- to a person having no immediate beneficial interest in the deceased’s estate;
- to the lawyer of a person entitled to a grant of administration;
- to the use and benefit of a In Victoria, a child or young person under 18. See also infant. or of a person incapable of managing their own affairs;
- to any person who appears to the court or the registrar to be resident outside Victoria;
- where a grant of administration relates to a grant to collect and preserve the deceased’s assets (ad colligendum bona) or to bring or defend a proceeding (ad litem);
- under sections 20, 22 or 24 of the A&P Act;
- where the court or registrar considers that there are special circumstances making it desirable to require a In criminal law, a person who promises a court that an accused person released on bail will attend court on a hearing date. If the accused person does not attend court, the surety must pay the court the amount of money stated in the bail documents. Also referred to as the guarantor. The sum of money payable if there is a breach is also referred to as the surety. or sureties; or
- where application can be made to the registrar to dispense with a surety.
Time for payment of debts
The procedure is the same as where the deceased left a will (see ‘Estates’, above). The notice to claimants refers to the administrator rather than the The person named in a will as the one who must ensure that the deceased person’s intentions, as stated in the will, are carried out..