Step 10 – Deceased Estate Administration Guide
Documentation of Death
- Last Updated: August 2023
This step explains everything you need to know about documentation of death and to help determine what types of dealings the deceased person had with various organisations to notify these of the death as outlined later in Step 12. This investigative work is critical to understand what the Deceased Estate is made up of and to stop payments for services that are no longer needed.
OverviewAt this stage, it is important to get a good overview of the deceased person's affairs. Reviewing files, documents, post and emails can help you understand:
- the dealings the deceased has had with various government departments, companies and organisations;
- what documents are available that you may need to administer the Deceased Estate;
- if there are any bills due or overdue;
- if any loan or mortgage repayments need to be maintained;
- if regular payments need to be made;
- insurance policies that you may need to pay or are be able to claim from;
- if any subscriptions and memberships are in place; and
- what customer, identification and membership numbers exist to help identify the deceased person when notifying authorities, companies and organisations (see Step 12 – Notification of Government Departments & Service Providers of the Death).
Download Important Documents Checklist: Find out what the most commonly used documents to successfully administer a Deceased Estate are.
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10.1 General Considerations
Most companies you as the Executor or Administrator will be dealing with on behalf of the deceased person and their Estate will have a formal process in place to gain rightful access to the relevant information, make claims, pay bills and close accounts.
You should get a good overview of the government departments, companies and organisations the deceased had dealings with. The formal processes for each dealing is explained in the later Steps.
If you were able to locate the Will as outlined in Step 4 – How to Find a Will & Funeral Insurance Information, other important documents may also be stored in a similar spot.
10.2 Documentation of Death
- Legal Requirement: The Death Certificate is the official and legal recognition of a person's death. It is the primary document needed to initiate the Estate Administration process, providing concrete proof that the individual has passed away. Also, the government needs to have an accurate record of all deaths for various purposes, including updating census data, social services, tax purposes, etc. Therefore, death documentation and the issuance of a Death Certificate are mandatory.
- Confirmation of Death: The Death Certificate serves as the official confirmation of death. It's an important document because it puts a definitive end to the deceased person's legal and financial existence. In terms of Estate Administration, it sets the ball rolling for Deceased Estate transfer of property and distribution.
- Identification of Assets and Liabilities: Documenting death plays an integral role in locating and identifying the deceased person's assets and liabilities. Banks, financial institutions, and government agencies require a Death Certificate before they can disclose information or transfer assets, ensuring the Deceased Estate is protected from unauthorised access or fraudulent activities.
- Application for Probate or Letters of Administration: These important legal processes, which authorise the Executor or Administrator to manage the deceased person's Estate, can't commence without a Death Certificate. Courts require this documentation to confirm death and validate the application.
- Closure of Accounts and Payouts: Utility companies, insurers, banks and other service providers also need the Death Certificate before they can close accounts and discontinue services, and in many instances the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to pay out any policy benefits or funds. It allows for the finalisation of the deceased person's affairs, which is a crucial aspect of Estate Administration.
- Tax Obligations: Documentation of death is required for dealing with tax obligations on behalf of the deceased. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requires death documentation to finalise the deceased person's tax matters, and to establish any liability for the Estate Beneficiaries.
- Sale or Transfer of Property: Any property and other assets of the Estate can't be transferred legally to the Beneficiaries without Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. It serves as proof that the original owner has passed away and that the Executor or Administrator stated in the court document are legally responsible to manage any property in the deceased person's name.
- Resolution of the Estate: Proper documentation facilitates the resolution of the Estate. By demonstrating the death officially, any disputes or uncertainties about the distribution of assets can be mitigated. It allows for a smoother, less complicated process and can offer closure for grieving families.
The documentation of death is a pivotal step in Estate Administration as it facilitates the execution of legal responsibilities, and ensures the appropriate distribution of the deceased person's assets. It also helps in settling debts and liabilities, and provides a necessary closure to the deceased person's affairs.
10.3 Types of Documents to Look For
This step is a critical part of determining the deceased person's dealings and affairs. You want to find out which government departments, companies and organisations the deceased person paid regular payments to and held memberships or subscriptions with.
As the Executor or Administrator, you should develop a good understanding of all important documents. This will allow you or simplyEstate to then contact each relevant organisation and notify them of the death to stop regular direct debits, yearly subscription renewals or any other obligations and save money.Among others, some of the key documents to look for may include:
- Bank statements – to understand which bank(s) and how many bank accounts are in place
- Service provider tax invoices – to understand all services subscribed to including mobile phone, landline, internet, newspapers, magazines, Foxtel, Netflix, Stan or other paid TV, music streaming services such as Spotify, wine clubs, gym or sport memberships and any other subscriptions.
- Government payment slips – to understand if any government pension or other payments were received
- Payslip – to understand who the employer was
- Insurance tax invoices – to understand what insurances are in place and when they end including health, home, contents, car, other vehicles and pet
- Utilities bills (water, gas and electricity) – to understand who to notify if those services can be stopped or reduced or if there are investment properties
- Council tax invoices – to understand how much needs to be paid if the property is owned
- Bills from the Transport Department – to understand if there are any outstanding fines, driver's license renewals or registration payments that are no longer needed
- Superannuation statements – to understand which superannuation fund(s) and how much funds are in place
- Real estate agent tax invoices – to understand if rent is due or if an investment property is rented out
- Strata levy invoices – to understand if levies are due for the rental property or if an investment property exists
- Share certificates – to understand what types of shares and the value
- Professional membership tax invoices – to understand what memberships are in place such as Chartered Accountants, CPA, Engineers Australia, Law Society and others to stop automatic renewals
- Professional services tax invoices – to understand if an accountant, lawyer, tax professional or financial planner was used who may have important information
- Investment fund statements – to understand if there are funds held by companies other than banks
Knowing what documents to look for will help you to develop a full picture of the deceased person's dealings. By working through this diligently and capturing all the necessary details, this work will go a long way to help you with the administration process.
10.4 Possible Location of Documents
If you or a family member (with or without Power of Attorney) supported the deceased person with their general banking, making payments, manage tax and kept records before they passed away, you should be able to get a good idea where important documents are stored.
If you are unsure, simplyEstate has listed some ideas where to start as follows:
The first port of call is to speak to the deceased person's family. The family may know exactly where documents are located and have a good idea which dealings the deceased had. In some cases, relatives may have already looked after financial and other affairs leading up to the death and kept records that will be important to you.
10.3.2 Power of Attorney
If the deceased person had appointed a Power of Attorney, that person may have been dealing with financial and other affairs and should have kept records that you can access or take over.
The deceased person's wallet containing their driver's licence, Medicare card, bank and insurance cards will help you understand crucial information.
10.3.4 Filing Cabinet
If the deceased still lived at home it may well be that most documents were stored in a filing cabinet, cupboard or office. You may already know or quickly develop an understanding as to how the person organised their affairs and whom they may have told about them.
Another good way to get an understanding of the deceased person's dealings with various government departments, companies and organisations is to look through the post. This may require some monitoring over a number of weeks or even months until a full picture can be made of all the dealings. See Step 21 – Check Post & Organise Mail Redirection After Death.
Today, computers play a key role in communicating and organising information, documents and correspondence.
If the deceased person has provided their digital asset access to you in the form of a password manager tool or a list of accounts and passwords, then you may want to login to their Computer and look for important documents to help you with the Deceased Estate administration process.
- Recent files in the most common applications such as Word and Excel;
- Recent files in the File Explorer, changing the view to 'Detail' and sorting by date to check recent activity;
- Run a specific keyword search in the File Explorer or Start menu to find documents relevant to you;
- Folders that may have information relevant to you; and
- Recent browser history to determine frequently visited pages to determine who the person banked with, any online subscriptions or other valuable information.
Today, email plays a key role for government departments, companies and organisations to communicate with its customers.If the deceased person has provided their digital asset access to you in form of a password manager tool or a list of accounts and passwords, then you may want to login to their email accounts and search for specific keywords to determine their dealings including:
If you haven't been provided with the login details, you may be able to gain access in certain circumstances by contacting the email services provider directly:
- Gmail – Access Google Account Help;
- Hotmail – Access the Microsoft Community Forum;
- Live – Access the Microsoft Community Forum;
- Outlook – Access the Microsoft Community Forum;
- PigPond – Access the Telstra Crowd Support Forum; and
- Yahoo Mail – Access Yahoo Help.
10.3.8 Access to Mobile Phone
If you have the deceased person's mobile phone in your possession and were given access you may be able to access various forms of communication by companies and organisations the person dealt with. You may even have access to emails via the phone.
If you can't access the phone, you can find out if their phone was synchronised to their Google account for Android phones or iTunes for Apple iPhones to recover the data stored.
If you are unable to access the phone and think access to the mobile phone is crucial to finding relevant information and documentation to facilitate the Deceased Estate administration, you may be able to request a court order to grant access. It is recommended you seek legal advice.
10.3.9 Online Accounts and Additional Security
Some online accounts provide additional security by activating Two Factor Authentication (2FA). If you come across an online account to which you were granted access and that requires 2FA, you will need access to the codes. In most instances a mobile phone application is used to access a 2FA application that shows temporary codes that expire every 30 seconds.The most common applications to look for are:
- Google Authenticator
- Microsoft Authenticator
- LastPass Authenticator
- FreeOTP Authenticator
- Sophos Authenticator
- Authenticator Plus
- Protectimus Smart OTP
10.3.10 Bank Deposit Box
Banks offer deposit boxes for important documents and other valuables to be stored safely. You will need to find out with which bank(s) the deceased person banked with and can then request the bank to provide details on the formal process by using the simplyEstate Notify Service in Step 12 – Notification of Government Departments & Service Providers of the Death.
If the deceased person used an Accountant, the firm may also hold important documents. You will need to find out with which Accounting Firm the deceased person dealt with and request for the details on the formal process to access the documents.
Look for a tax return or invoice and check whether it states the details of an Accountant who prepared and lodged the documents.
If the deceased person used a Lawyer to draft the Will or had an ongoing relationship, the firm may also hold important documents. You will need to find out with which Law Firm the deceased person dealt with and request for the details on the formal process to access the documents.
You are currently on Step 10 – Documentation of Death. Other steps of interest may be:< Step 8 – How To Get a Death Certificate > Step 12 – Notification of Government Departments & Service Providers of the Death > Step 21 – Check Post & Organise Mail Redirection After Death
Actions and Decisions to Complete Step Yourself
If you have decided to complete this Step yourself, some actions and decisions may be to:
- Familiarise yourself with what documentation of death means (see Step 10.2 above);
- Understand what types of documents to look for (see Step 10.3 above);
- Check with family members or Power of Attorneys where the deceased person held their paperwork and important files (see Step 10.4 above);
- Check all other listed places and any other that you can think of where important documents could be stored or located (see Step 10.4 above);
- Compile all important documents and list the government departments, companies and organisations the deceased person had dealings with;
- Compile all customer reference, identification and membership numbers to help you identify the deceased person when notifying authorities, companies and organisations in Step 12;
- Compile all bills and read Step 14 – Paying Deceased's Bills Before Probate (Solvent & Insolvent Estates) before making payment; and
- Check if any mortgage or loans are in place and determine if these should be paid or deferred until you have a better understanding of the Estate.
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Cost & Effort
Reading: 10 mins
Completing: 1-4 hrs
Total: 1:10-4:10 hrs
Effort and cost are general estimates only and are based on the assumption that you complete this step without experienced support.
To find out how this Process Guide works, access the instructions here.
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Other forms not listed here may be required based on your specific circumstances.
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