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Mitchell is the Managing Principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal. He is an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Law (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria). He also deals with areas of Employment Law, Wills & Estate Planning and Probate and can answer all your questions related to probate.

For further information, contact Mitchell on his direct line:


CALL: (03) 8561 3318

The information contained in this article is current as at 20 August 2020 and may no longer be up-to-date. To view information on the latest coronavirus updates, please visit our COVID-19 Updates, Webinars and Resources page or alternatively contact us on (03) 9560 2922 for further information on any recent changes.

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced and increased a range of psychological issues, including feelings of isolation, loneliness, and anxiety, as they are unable to rely on their usual support networks, including the ability to visit friends and family. As many businesses have now shifted to a working from home and online environment, the already fine line between professional and personal life has proven even more difficult to draw.  

Employers should be aware of these added pressures which many or all of their employees now face and the benefits of ensuring a mentally healthy workplace. It is important to note that employer obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (‘the Act’) still apply even though the workplace has now shifted to an at-home, online environment.

These obligations require employers to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including psychological health.

Under the Act, employers must:

  • Identify psychosocial hazards;
  • Assess the risk of physical and psychological harm associated with the hazard; and
  • Implement measures to eliminate or reduce the risks,so far as reasonably practicable.

Identifying and assessing psychosocial risks from COVID-19

It is important for employers to recognise that each individual’s circumstances are different. Whilst one employee may be feeling anxious about their future role within the business, another may be under stress due to an increased workload or as a result of having to home school their children. Further, inadequate support and lack of guidance at work can also result in an increased risk to a person’s psychological health.

Psychosocial hazards in the workplace therefore include an employee’s perception that the demand of their work or the environment of their work exceeds their ability to cope. Undertaking a risk assessment along with input from employees is vitally important in identifying psychological risks and hazards. Once employees have been consulted and a clear understanding of the risks have been identified, developing a clear plan to address these concerns and to reduce the exposure to harm, along with regularly reviewing such plans, is recommended.

Implementing measures: Tips for employers

A positive, supportive and inclusive workplace is a vital step to ensuring employees feel connected and supported. Employers or managers who demonstrate calm and trustworthy leadership can help ensure employees feel informed and less apprehensive about their future employment.

We also suggest the following:

  • Consulting employees on any risk to their psychological health.
  • Communicating information transparently and honestly to employees, including decisions made and the risks and impacts on the business and its employees.
  • Staying informed with official information and regularly sharing this information.
  • Acknowledging concerns and understanding that these may be different for every employee.
  • Informing workers about their rights under Work Health & Safety laws, including the right to stop working under certain circumstances and the right not to be discriminated against or disadvantaged for raising work health and safety concerns.
  • Organising online team catch-ups which involve non-work related activities; and
  • Sharing wellbeing services, such as:
  1. Comcare – Coronavirus: mental health and wellbeing guidance and resources
  2. Australian Psychological Society – Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety  
  3. Headspace – How to cope with stress related to coronavirus (COVID-19), and
  4. Beyond Blue – Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support

Regular, meaningful communication with employees is essential for supporting them through this time. Ensuring a mentally healthy workspace that supports the wellbeing of employees is crucial to the success of any business.

For more information

For further information regarding your obligations as an employer, please contact our employment law team on 1300 205 506 or alternatively fill in the contact form below. For further COVID-19 resources, visit our Updates, Webinars and Resources page.

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Written by one of our lawyers

,

.

For further information contact

Samuel Ellemor

Samuel is a Legal Practitioner at Sharrock Pitman Legal.

He deals with areas of Commercial Law, Employment Law and Charities & Not for Profit Law. For further information, contact Samuel on his direct line (03) 8561 3316.

More on

Employment Law

However, in this article we will set out the factors that influence how long it will take to obtain a Grant of Probate and to administer an estate in Victoria.

The basics

First things first: what is a Grant of Probate? A Grant of Probate is effectively a document issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria which formally authorises an executor to manage the estate of a deceased person in accordance with their Will. Without Probate, the asset holders (say a bank or share registry) cannot be satisfied as who has the correct authority to receive the deceased's assets and may refuse to pay out.

Sometimes, for smaller estates or if assets are mostly jointly owned with a surviving spouse, asset holders might agree to release payment without requiring a Grant of Probate. This is usually on the basis that the person who receives payment promises to repay (or Indemnify) the asset holder if it turns out they paid to the wrong person.

If there is no Will, then you cannot obtain a Grant of Probate. Instead you obtain Letters of Administration. This is effectively the same, in terms of authorising someone to administer the estate, and would usually be obtained by the person who is the closest next-of-kin to the deceased.

“A Grant of Probate is effectively a document issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria which formally authorises an executor to manage the estate of a deceased person in accordance with their Will.”

Timeframes for Probate in Victoria

In order to obtain a Grant of Probate, the Court needs to be given information about the assets and liabilities of the estate, the deceased person, the witnesses to the Will, the executors and the Will itself. An advertisement of your intention to apply for Probate must also be placed on the Supreme Court website for at least 14 days prior to any application.

Often, making enquires to obtain all the necessary information can take a number of weeks. Also, you will need the Death Certificate for the application for Grant of Probate and possibly for making proper enquires regarding the assets and liabilities. Waiting for the Death Certificate to issue can therefore add a few more weeks to the process. Overall, if you have your application for Grant of Probate lodged within 1 to 2 months from the date of death, you are making timely progress.

The Court itself does not take long to process the application (maybe another 1 to 2 weeks) and this is done 'on the papers' using the electronic Court filing system. This means you do not have to go to a court hearing. There is also a general discretion for the Court to issue a 'Requisition' asking that you provide more information before they process the application and this can delay matters.

“Overall, if you have your application for Grant of Probate lodged within 1 to 2 months from the date of death, you are making timely progress.”

So, here we are a few months after death and you finally have a Grant of Probate. It is important to remember that this is the start of the estate administration and not the end. For a very simple estate, you might only need a further month or so to cash the assets and pay them to the correct beneficiaries. However, it can often be more complex than that. Factors that determine the timeframe to administer the estate include:-

  • Some assets will take time to cash or transfer. For example, if selling a property, final settlement might be 60/90/120 days from the day of sale.
  • There is a 6 month period for challenges to be brought against the estate and executors must wait until this period expires before distributing the estate, if there is any risk that a disgruntled family member might come forward.
  • There might need to be final tax returns for the deceased or for the estate. Failing to wait for the ATO to process these could leave the executor personally liable for a tax bill.
  • You might need to advertise for creditors to come forward and wait for a period of months while this advertising timeframe expires. This protects the executor if they are unsure of all of the deceased's financial dealings and creditors.
  • It might not always be a good time to immediately cash estate assets. For example, the shares just took a nose-dive, do you still sell regardless of available price?

There is a general rule that executors have an 'executor's year' to complete the estate administration. This means that you should be aiming to have the estate finalised and distributed within 12 months from the date of death.

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Need help with Probate?

Our expert legal team is ready to take your call!

Mitchell is the Managing Principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal. He is an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Law (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria). He also deals with areas of Employment Law, Wills & Estate Planning and Probate and can answer all your questions related to probate.

For further information, contact Mitchell on his direct line:

DIRECT LINE: 
(03) 8561 3318

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For fifty years Sharrock Pitman Legal has made a significant and long term contribution to meeting the legal needs of business owners and residents in the City of Monash and greater Melbourne area.