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Legal process after death

Navigating Legal Matters After a Loss: What To Do

June 28, 2024

We understand that the days and weeks immediately following a loss can be confusing and stressful for loved ones. There are many legal processes to consider after a death, most of which are unfamiliar to people. While time is often of the essence, it’s important to research and understand these processes to avoid any challenges in future. By being informed about legal matters after a loss, you can support your loved ones and reduce stress during what is no doubt one of the hardest times of life.


Immediate Legal Steps to Take

In the days immediately following the demise, there are certain tasks that should be attended to without delay.

If the death occurs at home unexpectedly, call the police to report the passing and ascertain if the coroner should be involved. If the death is expected, work through any end-of-life procedures that were already in place and contact the person’s doctor since they will need to sign the death certificate.  At a hospital or nursing home in Perth, the team will likely work with their associated doctor to issue the certificate.

You need to obtain a death certificate early on to ensure you can move forward with processes like accessing and closing accounts as well as execution of the deceased’s will.  A death certificate can otherwise be obtained from a funeral director (our Inclusions)  or solicitor, who can also support you in reporting the passing to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. 

Also, if your loved one was a registered organ donor, medical staff can confirm this or you can check their driver’s licence to see if it is recorded there. 

Understanding the Will and Estate

After you have obtained the death certificate and feel ready, we encourage you to start thinking about the will and probate.

If there is no will – the deceased is intestate – you’ll need to figure out how the estate will be handled, especially if the estate is large and/or complicated. Look through papers left by the deceased person to review their assets and liabilities. Contact their bank or finance planner if you are struggling to locate information. A Wills and Probate lawyer can certainly make the process easier. Otherwise, you, as the next of kin, will have to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration from the Supreme Court of Western Australia so that you can act as the executor of the will.

If a will is present, locate and review it to find out who the executor is and then notify them.

For most situations, a Grant of Probate is the next step. It confirms the validity of the deceased’s will and also confers authority to the executor so that they may now administer and distribute the deceased’s estate. This Grant is a legal document, again issued by the Supreme Court, and you will need the death certificate, the original will and a statement of the deceased assets and liabilities when applying for one.

Financial Considerations

Once probate is granted, the executor should be able to access the deceased’s bank account and begin the financial part of the process. Keep in mind that there is financial assistance available in Western Australia if you find yourself in a challenging situation, such as with bereavement payments, rental grants, mortgage relief loans and bank loans. It’s important to not only gain access to bank accounts but also close off any credit and debit cards to avoid fraud risks.

The payment of any outstanding debt is another consideration and will need to be done before the distribution of assets. Close all of the deceased’s bank and trading accounts and pay off all debts. Once this is done, you’ll be in a position to start allocating remaining assets and transferring property.


Seeking Legal Assistance

When it comes to the legal process after death, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to go through this alone. You’ll find estate lawyers and legal advisors throughout Perth who have many years of experience in this field. Instead of taking a risk and just hoping for the best, it’s better to consult a legal professional. You don’t want to rush the process just to get it over with, only to find yourself in a bigger mess in a few months or years time. Estate lawyers are very used to working with grieving individuals and will be there to support you and answer any questions you have. This can take some of the work off your plate and also give you the time you need to process what’s happened.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many steps to take when it comes to sorting through the legal process after a death. As a family member or loved one who is executing the will, you’ll want to make sure you feel confident in what you are doing to avoid any errors. Take your time to process everything that has happened and just take it day by day to work through all of the steps we’ve shared above. Remember, help is always available to support you through navigating these legal challenges. Our team will be here to help you every step of the way and can suggest other local businesses that can assist you with the legal process that we’ve shared above.

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