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Small estates

What happens to small estates, including when a Grant of Representation is not required.

The Small Estates Officer of the Supreme Court probate registry offers a service to assist a person who is acting for a deceased and the estate is small. This is a legally aided service where the registry helps to prepare and file the necessary documents to reduce the cost and time involved so that a grant can be issued.

See Supreme Court—Small estates optional notice(opens in a new window).

This is designed to encourage a person who is in control of a small estate to get a full grant of probate rather than informally administering the estate.

See also When a grant is not required.

What is a small estate?

A small estates is where the value of the estate does not exceed $112,970. (This amount was increased on 1 July 2011).

Note: This amount has now been indexed and may increase on 1 July each year in line with the consumer price index. This amount will be published in the Government Gazette on or before 1 July each year.

See s. 71(1)—Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Supreme Court—Grants of probate or administration for small estates(opens in a new window).

When a grant is required

Usually a Grant of Representation is necessary if:

  • the deceased left real estate that needs to be administered (excludes property owned jointly, as this is not transferred through a Will)
  • their employee entitlements are $12,500 or more
  • bank accounts or insurance policies are over $15,000 (note: bank and insurance company have discretion to allow transfer if balances exceeds this)
  • where total estate value is over the amount indexed for a small estate (excluding jointly owned property)
  • the deceased owned shares or other securities.

See s. 31B—Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

See also 'Small estates and where no grant is required [13.3.201]' in Lawyer's Practice Manual—Administration of estates [13.3.101](opens in a new window).

If a Grant of Representation is required, but the estate is small, there is a simplified procedure for obtaining a grant. Grant applications are made to the Small Estates officer of the Probate Office.

If the applicant lives more than 32 kilometers away from Melbourne GPO, the registrar of the closest Magistrates’ Court will be able to prepare the necessary documents.

Documents needed

The applicant will need to bring in:

  • a copy of the Will (if there is one)
  • the original death certificate
  • details of proof of the person's assets (bank accounts, rate notices, title particulars, share certificates)

The person will need to take proof that established their identity and right or their relationship to the deceased is required.

What the registrars will do

A registrar from the probate office or of a regional Magistrates' Court will:

  • complete the advertisement affidavit
  • complete other documents required by the court that will lead to a grant of probate
  • collect all the fees payable on behalf of the applicant.

If this service is being done by a local Magistrates Court they will send all of this material on to the probate office.

If the registrar is satisfied that there are no caveats over the property, that there is no will, and that the affidavits are sufficient, they will issue probate or administration to the applicant.

The registrar will not be able to assist if the value of the estate is over the limit for a small estate, if a caveat has been lodged over the property, or if the application is too complex.

See s. 72—Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Fees

Registrars do not charge any fee for assisting with the application for a grant, however the normal filing fees do apply unless the estate is less than $1,000. In this event the filing fee is reduced. The fees are listed on the Supreme Court website.

See Supreme Court—Small estates optional notice(opens in a new window)

When a grant is not required

It is not always necessary to make an application for a Grant of Representation, especially if the estate is small.

An executor or administrator should avoid the need to obtain a Grant of Representation if possible, as it substantially reduces costs and thus maximise the estate for the beneficiaries.

If a person holds money or personal property for a deceased person that is worth less than $27,338 (current at 1 July 2019) they will not need to produce a grant of representation for transferring money to someone who has legal capacity and who appears to be entitled to the money.

Note: The value of property that can be distributed in this way may increase on 1 July each year. This value will be advertised in the Victorian Government Gazette.

See ss. 31A, 31B—Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window). (Amount proclaimed in Victoria Government Gazette G24 on 13 June 2019)

It is generally unnecessary to apply for a grant where the deceased's assets consist of:

  • life insurance policies with a total value of less than $6,000 (note: the insurer has discretion to allow distribution in excess of this amount)
  • outstanding wages owed that do not exceed $12,500
  • balance of bank account is less than $5,000 (the bank has discretion to allow distribution in excess of this).

Procedure if no grant is required

Banks will often allow payment from the deceased's account to their surviving spouse or their children provided that the bank is indemnified against loss by the person who benefits from the transfer of money.

Each bank and insurance company will need to be contacted to find out the exact procedure that they require for their administration. These institutions have a great deal of discretion as to what sort of documentation they require.

Take certified copy of the Will and a death certificate to the institution to close the account. Some may ask for a statutory declaration or for the representative to sign a form that indemnifies them before they will release the funds.

See s. 31A—Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic)

  • Part 2—Small estates
  • s. 31A—protection of payments or transfers of property without requiring a grant of representation
  • s. 31B—threshold amount
  • s. 71—defines what is meant by a small estate and outlines the procedural steps
  • s. 72—registrar may issue probate or administration if satisfied of certain matters
  • s. 73—registrar will need proof to establish the identity and right or relationship of the applicant
  • s. 76—applicants who live more than 32 kilometres from the GPO
  • s. 12—grants of probate ad administration by registrar

See Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

References

Supreme Court

This site has basic information about the small estates, links to current fees for this service for small estates.

See Supreme Court—Small estates optional notice(opens in a new window).

Lawyers Practice Manual

  • 'Small estates and where no grant is required [13.3.201]'

See Administration of estates [13.3.101](opens in a new window).

Updated