In some instances, the executor will need to await probate being granted before being able to action some of these items.
IDENTIFY AND LOCATE THE BENEFICIARIES
Identifying and locating beneficiaries can be simple if the will-maker was part of a nuclear family all living in the same town/city. Today’s world could mean blended families, located anywhere. Illegitimate children can come forward and claim an entitlement to inherit from their biological parent, which could involve DNA testing.
Currently, Australia Post will redirect mail for a deceased estate free for up to 12 months. The executor needs to apply
in-person at a post office and provide proof of identity as well as a copy of the grant of probate/letter of administration (if
available), otherwise the Will. The executor should also check for any post office boxes the deceased may have held and
cancel those too.
More and more we are receiving our correspondence by email. Some providers such as Google will allow the account holder to appoint an ‘account trustee’ to download some of the deceased’s account content if the account is unattended for amount of time. This is an emerging area of the law and every provider has different rules for access after the death of the account-holder.
CANCEL DRIVER’S LICENCE AND TRANSFER VEHICLE REGISTRATION FROM DECEASED ESTATE
The executor needs to notify the relevant State authority and provide proof of identity as well as a copy of the grant of probate/letter of administration.
NOTIFY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES OF DEATH AND CANCEL ANY PAYMENTS
The executor completes the ‘advice of death’ form from the Department of Human Services website, which will notify Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support agencies of the death. It is advisable to have the deceased’s Medicare card number, Centrelink Customer Reference Number and/or Child Support Reference Number on hand to complete this form.
In some circumstances, there may be a bereavement allowance/payment available, so it’s important to check eligibility.
CLAIM ANY MEDICAL EXPENSES
Once Medicare has been notified of the death, the executor is also responsible for arranging any Medicare or private health insurance refunds for medical and dental expenses already paid.
REVIEW INSURANCE/S (HEALTH, CAR, PROPERTY, LIFE) AND CLAIM ANY REFUNDS
Some insurance will need to be cancelled immediately whereas others will need to remain or be recorded in the name of the executor until the asset is no longer part of the estate.
If a property owned by the deceased is unoccupied, as executor you are responsible for preventing any damage that could happen before the property is sold/transferred. Adequate insurance cover for properties must be in place and retained until the asset is disposed.
In the case of any life insurance, the executor needs to begin the insurance claim. If there is a named beneficiary, the proceeds from the policy will be paid directly to them. If the beneficiary is a minor or person with a disability, there could be considerable delay, as a trust may need to be set up for this person. If this situation arises, as a trustee company with more than 130 years’ experience, Equity Trustees can assist with this.
CANCEL/TRANSFER UTILITIES AND ESSENTIAL SERVICES
If there are dependants or others living in the deceased’s home, the electricity/gas/water/internet/landline accounts will need to be transferred to whoever is taking over those accounts. Mobile phone accounts should be cancelled by the executor by providing to the telephone company ID and proof of death documentation.
CANCEL MEMBERSHIPS/SUBSCRIPTIONS AND CLAIM REFUNDS
Many memberships will cancel when direct debits are no longer paid as bank accounts are frozen or shut down. However, if care is not taken, there could be months of unnecessary payments made before accounts are closed. Some memberships may be transferred; for others there may be a refund for the unexpired portion of the membership term.
• Consider motoring club, Frequent Flyers and other reward points, gym, football/sporting clubs, magazine subscriptions, pay TV/Netflix, TAB accounts.
CANCEL SOCIAL MEDIA AND OTHER ONLINE ACCOUNTS
Social media networks usually have procedures in place to deal with the accounts of deceased members. These vary between networks. Facebook accounts can be switched to memorials, Twitter accounts deactivated by a person authorised to act on behalf of the estate, and as mentioned in point #10 Google offers an ‘account trustee’. However, none of these is legally binding.
Direct debits linked to a credit card should be cancelled, so unauthorised payments cannot be made (although once credit card accounts are closed, this won’t be an issue).
• Consider Amazon, Apple/Google Play, eBay, PayPal, Uber.