- What will it cost me?
- Do I have to pay upfront?
- How long will it take?
- Where are you?
- Can you store my documents for me?
- My family member died without a will – does that mean it all goes to the government or Public Trustee?
- What does “intestate” mean?
- What is probate?
- What are letters of administration?
- What is an executor?
- What if I don’t want to be an executor?
- What’s the difference between an executor and administrator?
- What’s the difference between an executor and trustee?
- What is a “domestic partner”?
What will it cost me?
For some matters (like wills or conveyancing) we offer set rates if the matter is routine. For most matters, we charge for the work we do according to the Supreme Court Scale of Costs. The Scale is a standard, if you like, for solicitors in South Australia. It states how much we can charge for a telephone call, for example, or for writing a letter. We feel this is the fairest way of charging because you only pay for the work required and you only pay at the rate the Court says is appropriate.
We will give you an estimate of costs at the first appointment so that you can decide whether to proceed, and we will always keep you informed about costs so there are no unpleasant surprises.
Do I have to pay upfront?
For almost all of the matters we look after, no upfront payment is required. For wills, conveyancing, estate administration and so on, we will issue our invoice when our work is done – sometimes, for longer matters, we will issue interim invoices along the way.
There might be some matters for which this is not appropriate. Sometimes we ask our clients to place funds into our Trust Account at the start of a matter in anticipation of our fees and disbursements (costs we might have to pay along the way, such as Court filing fees). If your matter falls into this small category, we will discuss it with you at the first appointment.
How long will it take?
We never know. We can give estimates, based on our experience – for example, the time between a first appointment and obtaining a Grant of Probate is often 6 to 8 weeks, but that depends on how long it takes for banks and other organisations to respond to our letters, and on how long it takes the Court to process the application. For wills, we aim to have drafts prepared and sent to you within a week of taking your instructions. For all matters, we know how important it is to bring things to a close in good time, and we will do what we can to finalise matters as swiftly as possible.
Where are you?
We are on the third floor of 22 Grenfell Street – on the corner of Grenfell Street and James Place, near the King William Street end of Grenfell Street. For more information on the closest parking, or on ramp access, please see our Contact Us page.
Can you store my documents for me?
Yes – we have a number of vaults where we store important documents for our clients. There is no cost for this service. You can store the documents we prepare, and other important documents like Trust Deeds or previous wills, to make sure everything is together in a safe place.
My family member died without a will – does that mean it all goes to the government or Public Trustee?
No! There are a lot of urban myths floating around out there, and this is one of the most common. When someone dies without a will, the government only benefits from the estate if no children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews can be found. Public Trustee do have a small role in all estates where someone dies without leaving a will, but in most situations they will not be “in control” of the estate.
What does “intestate” mean?
When a person dies without leaving a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate”.
What is probate?
A Grant of Probate is an order made by the Supreme Court saying that the will is the valid last will, and that the people named in the Grant (the executors) are authorised to deal with the assets of the estate. Sometimes people use the term “going through probate” to mean the process of applying for a Grant of Probate. The word has its origins in the Latin for “prove” (proving that the will is valid and so on).
What are letters of administration?
A Grant of Letters of Administration is like a Grant of Probate – the difference is that a Grant of Probate is made when a person leaves a will, but a Grant of Letters of Administration is made when a person dies without a will, or when the will doesn’t name an executor (or names an executor who is unwilling or unable to act). In that case, the Court appoints an Administrator to be in charge of the estate. The Administrator must deal with the estate according to the law, and must report to Public Trustee about his or her administration.
What is an executor?
When making a will, a person will (or should) name an executor or executors. These people are charged with the many responsibilities of winding up the legal affairs of the person who has passed away.
What if I don’t want to be an executor?
There is no obligation to be an executor simply because you are named in that role. Having said that, an executor who has started to act as an executor cannot stop until the process is complete – if you are named in that role think carefully about whether you are able to see things through to completion before starting.
Only one executor is required to play an active role in the administration of an estate. If a person has named more than one executor, the others can take a back seat by “reserving leave” to apply at a later date, or step out of the process altogether by “renouncing” their position. If only one executor is named in a will, that executor can still step aside, leaving it to the beneficiaries to step up.
What’s the difference between an executor and an administrator?
An executor is nominated by a person in his or her will – an administrator is appointed by the Court where there is no executor. Because administrators are appointed by the Court, they have a few extra responsibilities so the Court can be sure they are doing the right thing.
The term “administrator” is also used in other contexts. For example, a person might have an administrator appointed during his or her lifetime to make financial decisions if he or she is not able to make those decisions personally. The authority of this type of administrator ceases if the person passes away.
What’s the difference between an executor and a trustee?
An executor is responsible for calling in the assets of a deceased person. Once that process is complete, the executor becomes a trustee, holding those assets on trust to pay any debts and attend to any other legal obligations before distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the will. The two terms are often used interchangeably in deceased estates, but it is sometimes important to recognise the difference between the two.
What is a “domestic partner”?
The most common example of a domestic partner is a de facto partner, but two people do not need to be in an intimate relationship in order to be domestic partners. A domestic partner has special legal rights, such as the right to bring a claim against a person’s estate or the right to be appointed administrator of an estate. The requirements for being recognised as a domestic partner are in the Family Relationships Act 1975 (SA), and to be recognised as a domestic partner you need to obtain a declaration from a Court. As each situation is different, it is important to look at the whole picture before deciding whether a person will be able to obtain a domestic partner’s declaration.