If you have been required to make an application for a grant of probate of a will or apply for letters of administration in a deceased state in recent years, you would be aware that there are often significant wait times in processing applications in the NSW Supreme Court. At the moment, it can often take up to three months for an application to be processed by the court registry. This is obviously not ideal as it delays the administration of a deceased estate in circumstances where a grant of probate or LOA is required to release assets such as large amounts of funds held in bank accounts, refundable accommodation deposits help by nursing homes, the sale or transfer of shares exceeding a value of around $15,000 (depending on the share registry), or where the transfer of NSW real estate is required.
The current system for applying for an uncontested grant is to complete a Summons and Affidavits in support of the application in hard copy form and send the original documents to the Supreme Court registry for filing with the original will and the court filing fee. The documents are then processed by the court registry and a grant of probate or letters of administration issued provided all relevant legal criteria has been met. But that is all set to change.
In an effort to try and overcome the processing delays, the NSW Supreme Court registry have now moved to an online filing system. From 1 August 2023 all applications for a grant of probate or letters of administration in NSW will need to be filed through the NSW online registry website. There is a significant amount of information required regarding the deceased and their estate that will need to be obtained by executors or their solicitors in order to complete the online application. The original will will also need to be forwarded to the court by post as part of the application. Grants will also now only be issued online in electronic form.
An online application process for grants of probate and letters of administration has already been adopted in Victoria and it appears to have had the desired effect of cutting down administration and processing times. There are likely to be teething issues as with any new procedure, and self-represented parties may find its more difficult to do the application themselves without at least some direction, but overall it seems like the changes will beneficial to applicants in achieving a much quicker outcome.
If you have been appointed as an executor of a will, or have lost a loved one who did not have a will in place, you should seek appropriate legal advice at an early stage as to whether a grant of probate or letters of administration will be required before proceeding with the administration of the estate. KC Hilton, WNB Legal.