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What is ‘Independent administration’?

Being an executor or administrator of an estate is a grave responsibility but it is often imposed on family members who have limited legal experience, and complex familial relationships with the other interested parties (ie co-executors and beneficiaries) whose welfare they are legally bound to promote. It is a frequent occurrence that there is conflict which either prevents a grant of representation being made or – where a grant is made – the estate from being administered promptly and in accordance with the law. In these circumstances, the Court or parties may appoint an independent professional to act as the administrator and / or trustee of an estate. We are passionate about providing independent professional support to facilitate the proper admininistration of trusts and estates that have stalled for various reasons. Although we work as independent and impartial professionals in these matters, we are ‘pro’ the resolution of the impasse that has given rise to the appointment. The steps involved in finalising an estate can be unpredictable and do not always run to a particular timetable or formula. An estate or trust administration can be delayed by legal proceedings, other complex issues relating to the legal structures within the estate or trust and the dynamics of the people involved. We approach the planning and reporting about the estate or trust administration by developing a ‘lifecycle plan’ that will document the practical steps – large and small – that will be required to finalise the estate and allow for regular, cost-effective reporting to interested parties. The next generations of trusts and estates will increasingly involve corporate and trust structures that demand broad legal experience and the capacity to work through complex issues and disputes. Our broader experience within commercial insolvency and litigation practice, as well as our ‘behind the scenes’ experience with complex estate administraton and disputes, makes us uniquely suited to the task that lies ahead in dealing with complex estates and trusts.

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VCAT administration

Natalie accepts a limited number of appointments by VCAT to serve as financial administrator under the Guardianship and Administration Act 2019. Natalie is familiar with the relevant legislation and with the broader human rights framework that now governs substitute decision making. Natalie's article “A New Dawn: the new Guardianship and Administration Act 2019" was published in the Law Institute Journal March 2020 when the new legislation came into effect.

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Private clients Estate administration 

If you have been appointed as an executor or are otherwise entitled to a grant of representation we have the knowledge and skills to assist you to manage the task that lies ahead. In practical terms, an estate administration requires at least the follwing: (a)preparing and filing applications for a suitable grant of representation; (b)taking steps to secure the assets of the estate or trust; (c)ascertaining the rights and obligations that attach to the appointment having regard to all relevant legislation and the terms of the will, deed or legislative provisions; (d)calling in assets and obtaining relevant registrations with bodies (such as the SRO and ATO) to ascertain liabilities; (e)communication in accordance with duties to act impartially between beneficiaries but also to work cost effectively to minimise the impact of legal fees on the estate; (f)frequently, the legal skill and experience to conduct or defend litigation in relation to to estate or trust; (g)mitigating risks of personal liability by identifying and paying estate creditors; and (h)distributing and finalising the estate according to law. We have our own direct experience of carrying out the duties that have been imposed on you in your role as executor or administrator. We will apply the same knowledge, skills and insights to assist you in applying for a grant of representation and managing the estate that has been entrusted to you.

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Private clients Litigation 

Although for most of us, being involved in Court proceedings is an unwelcome experience, it is a very frequent occurrence in trusts and estate matters and one that we are well equipped to guide you through. We bring to our estate litigation practice tenacity and breadth of experience derived from a background in commercial litigation. We also have ready and specialised knowledge of the law, practice and procedures that apply to wills, estate and trusts litigation. With the technical side of our litigation practice being ‘second nature’ to us, we are able to focus on the best strategy and communication to resolve disputes and obtain the best possible outcome in the circumstances. Litigation is really just a ‘last resort’ tool or lever to achieve an objective by asserting or defending legal rights. If possible, we aim to identify and deal with the issues that may give rise to litigation before proceedings are issued. If legal proceedings do arise, it is our goal to work with you to achieve an outcome that accords with your goals and values but which is driven by firm and candid advice. We are advisors, first and foremost. But we believe that the best client relationships are about partnering to achieve an alignment between our knowledge and your goals.


Re Robustelle [2022] VSC 493 (McMillan J)

The Court dealt with a contest in which the caveator objected to multiple Wills. Following the authority in Gardiner v Hughes (2017) 54 VR 394, the case is a helpful guide about the way to challenge multiple Wills and relating issues about standing to issue a challenge to a grant application.

Re Winter-Cooke(No 3) [2022] VSC 468 (McMillan J)

This costs decision followed an unsuccessful application for extension of time in which to bring a family provision claim. The Court found that there was nothing in the Defendant executors’ conduct to justify a departure from the usual order that costs follow the event. The Court accepted that that position was not altered by the disparity in the parties’ financial positions in the circumstances of this case and costs were ordered against the unsuccessful party.

Walter v Hasslinger & Ors [2022] VSC 46 (Kaye JA)

An application was made to remove a trustee. The Court declined to exercise power under s 48 of the Trustee Act 1958 to remove the trustee where the trustee did not consent and his conduct was not ‘antithetical’ to the interest of the beneficiaries. The Court also found that the Settled Land Act 1958 applied where orders were pursuant to Part IV of the Administration and Probate Act 1958 which created a life tenancy.


+61 (0) 400 527 982

PO Box 5125
Frankston South VIC 3199

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