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Don’t drown in paperwork. Five easy steps to getting it sorted.

Managing a deceased estate inevitably involves sorting through lots of documents.  It’s a task worth doing properly as well organised documents are essential to working efficiently. Follow our five simple steps to get your documents in order.

Step 1 – Identify important documents such as the Will, death certificate and certificates of title

Don’t hole-punch or staple them! Put them into plastic sleeves for protection and then into your file (see below).

Step 2 – Sort all of the paperwork into categories (piles) based on the asset, liability or service

Give each bank account, motor vehicle, investment, super fund, loan, credit card, etc its own category. Likewise, give each service such as Centrelink, Telstra, health insurance, etc its own category.

Step 3 – Now the good bit. Within each category, identify the most recent and relevant documents only 

You are generally looking for only one or two documents in each category. Put these aside ready for step 4.

Store all the other documents away. Leave them bundled in their categories, but don’t spend any more time on them at this stage. You probably won’t need these documents, but you can come back to them later if necessary.

Step 4 – File your documents.

Now you’re ready to file the documents you selected in step 3.  A lever-arch file (or two) dedicated to the estate’s affairs works best. Keep them separated into categories and use a file divider for each category. Sort them in strict chronological order within each category. The most recent documents are always the most useful, so youngest go on top.  As new documents arrive, categorise and file them in the same way.

Step 5 – Make an index for your file

Use a three-column index with column headings “Category”, “Value” and “Progress”. Each row in your list describes a category, its monetary value (if applicable) and tracks your progress in finalising the estate in that category.  Update your list as new information comes to hand and you make progress.

Finally, remember to keep all of the estate’s records and documents in one place and separate from your own personal records.

probate checklist
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Our plain-English guide How to manage a deceased estate has practical advice to help you to take charge and finalise the estate.