What you need to know and do when it’s time to activate a loved one’s Will
When someone has died, it’s important to find their Will as soon as possible - the Will could contain instructions for their funeral, or other final wishes.
Many people keep their Will with other official documents such as passports or birth certificates. If their Will was made with Public Trust, we may have a copy in safekeeping. Simply get in touch, and we can help with understanding any wishes of your loved one or any urgent matters that may arise and next steps.
When someone dies with a Will in place, the Will makes it clear what they wanted to happen with their estate and who they want to complete the estate administration process. This process involves:
Getting legal authority to administer the estate
Carrying out their wishes in accordance with their Will
Collecting any assets owned in their sole name
Managing any outstanding debts or accounts in their sole name (including any tax obligations)
Distributing the estate as directed by the Will
Adhering to New Zealand legislation
Deal with any disputes or claims made against the estate
Estate administration begins when a person dies and ends when everything has been distributed. An estate doesn’t just refer to real estate - it can be any material or financial asset.
The person who manages this process is called an executor, and the people who receive items or benefit through the Will are called beneficiaries.
If you’ve been named executor of a Will, see our guide about what’s expected of you and where we can help.
When Public Trust is the executor
The process of estate administration can be challenging, so many Kiwi like to appoint Public Trust as their executor.
If we’ve been named executor for your loved one’s Will, it’s likely because they wanted to save you the headache of paperwork and legal processes.
As an independent party, we allow you the space and time to grieve and take care of your personal and family needs, while we handle everything else in the background.
It’s our job to make sure everything is carried out quickly, smoothly, fairly and accurately by supporting, listening, and consulting with the beneficiaries along the way.
The estate administration process
The process of settling your loved one’s estate can take several months, depending on the complexity of their situation. Here’s what you can expect with Public Trust as the executor:
We’ll meet with you to go through what’s involved in the administration process, understand the assets and liabilities and help you be clear about the deceased person’s wishes, as well as talking about any potential issues. Then we’ll confirm the plan in writing, usually within 10 business days.
Get Court Approval
We will also apply to the High Court for the appropriate documents that give us the legal authority to collect the assets. Probate is typically received six to eight weeks after our first meeting. However, The High Court is experiencing very high demand, so is currently taking longer than usual to process probate applications.
Confirm Assets & Debts
We contact banks, insurers and others to get the full details of what the deceased owns (and owes) and arrange for valuations, inventories, appraisals and insurance as needed.
Collect Assets and Pay Debts
Once the assets and debts have been confirmed, we’ll provide instructions to the relevant organisations to close accounts, sell or transfer property and other assets, pay outstanding debts, and handle the paperwork.
We must follow the instructions in the Will, but we’ll also keep you informed along the way and seek your views where possible on what you’d like done with particular items.
Distribute the Estate
Once the expenses and debts are covered and any specific gifts distributed, we’ll begin distributing what remains, this is called the residuary estate. In simple cases, we may be able to settle everything at once. Sometimes it can take a while, so depending on the situation, we may make interim distributions and then a final distribution once everything is settled.
Accounting for everything
Once the estate administration is complete, we’ll send you a final statement detailing what’s been done. This includes details of all the assets, any debts paid, all the costs and expenses involved as well as confirming how the estate was distributed.
Our fees are based on the work we complete, not the value of an estate. A simple estate will cost less to manage than a large and complex one. An estate can be more complex for a number of reasons, such as:
There are a large number of beneficiaries or some cannot be found
There is a property to sell
There are many assets to deal with or if there is a business or overseas assets involved
There are legal issues to settle
There are complex family dynamics, including disputes between beneficiaries.
At the beginning of our process we’ll provide you with a plan outlining the steps we’ll take and an estimate of the time and costs involved. If you would like more details, view our price list here.
Talk to or meet with our experts
If you’d like more information about activating a Will, estate administration, or have any other questions, we are here to help.