What is included in the estate of a deceased person?

By Nicholas Marouchak

18 March 2021 - 3 min read

Not everything your loved one owned at the time of death will be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries refers to those inheriting under the estates. For example, those named in the will or if there is no will, then the family members entitled to receive something under the ‘rules of intestacy’.

Only assets that form part of your loved one’s ‘estate’ gets divided among the beneficiaries.

Assets Part of the Estate

The following assets are generally available to beneficiaries because they are part of the estate.

Money in the sole bank accounts

Money in your loved one’s sole name held with a bank or financial institution.

Motor vehicles in sole name

Motor vehicles in your loved one’s sole name such as cars, trailers, motorcycles.

Real estate in sole name

If real estate is held by the deceased in their sole name, then it’s available.

Real estate held with others as tenants in common

Jointly held real estate which is owned as tenants in common can be transferred to the beneficiaries.

Shares held in sole name

Shares owned by the deceased in their sole name, whether in privately held companies or the stock exchange.

Other assets in sole name

Other assets held solely owned by the deceased can be distributed. This includes personal possessions, furniture, cash and jewellery

Life insurance paid to the estate

If under the policy, life insurance is paid to your loved one’s estate, it’s available.

Superannuation paid to the estate

If the superannuation trustee pays or paid the super funds to their estate, it is available.

07 what included in deceased estate

Assets NOT Part of the Estate

These are examples of assets not available to the beneficiaries because they do not form part of the estate.

Real Estate owned as joint tenants

Real estate your loved one owned as ‘joint tenants’ with others will pass automatically to the other joint owners upon their death.

Other Jointly Owned Property

Other non-real estate, jointly owned property such as joint bank accounts and shares in joint names, generally speaking, will also operate in a way as joint tenant ownership. That means the surviving joint owners will be entitled to the deceased’s share in the property – and it will not be available to the beneficiaries.

Although this happens most of the time, it is best to check with the financial institution or the share registry to confirm that this applies.

Superannuation not paid to estate

Superannuation will not be distributed to the beneficiaries, except if:

  • The deceased has already accessed their superannuation and it is held in a bank account controlled by them, and that account forms part of their estate (e.g. in a sole bank account); or
  • The superannuation fund agrees that the superannuation will be paid to their estate.

Life insurance not paid to estate

Life insurance operates in the same way as superannuation.

Life insurance will not be available to the beneficiaries except if the life insurance policy specifies that the payout will be made to the deceased’s estate.

If on the other hand, the life insurance policy specifies that the payout will be made to certain person named in the policy, then it is not an asset available to the beneficiaries but only available to those named in the life insurance policy.

Property held in a family trust or other trusts

Property held in a family trust or another type of trust such as a unit trust, usually does not form part of a deceased estate, and therefore may not be available to the beneficiaries.

The trust deed should be reviewed to determine whether any property in the trust is available to the beneficiaries.