Dealing with the deceased’s property: Wills, intestacy, and small estates
Small estates: No need for court approval
Court approval not necessary for amounts under $15,000
If the estate is a small one, it may not be necessary to apply to the courts for approval to deal with the estate (probate for a will, or letters of administration if there’s no will). Banks, company directors and so on can transfer the following to the executor/administrator or to family members or the beneficiaries who are entitled to it, without any need for probate or letters of administration:
- money in bank accounts up to $15,000
- shares worth up to $15,000
- life insurance policies up to $15,000
- government stock up to $15,000 and local authority stock up to $15,000.
The executor/administrator or beneficiary will usually need to provide a copy of the death certificate in these cases. The person or organisation paying or transferring the money or other property must also be satisfied that probate or letters of administration haven’t been granted.
Even if court approval isn’t needed because it’s a small estate, the executor has to follow the directions in the will. If there’s no will, they are still obligated to follow the the rules of who is entitled to what property (“the laws of intestacy”).
Tip: In practice, banks won’t know the total net worth of the estate, just the amount the deceased held with that individual bank. If there is less than $15,000 at a singular bank, you might be able to apply directly to that bank without having to get approval from the High Court.