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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

If you are ever involved in any form of legal proceedings, you will need to participate in a court hearing at some point. Are you wondering what to expect at your first court hearing?

If you are feeling a bit like Denny Denuto (from the iconic movie 'The Castle') and are not sure what to do in Court, please read on for some key things you need to know.

What is a Court Hearing?

A court hearing is where you are required to go into the relevant Court or Tribunal and have a particular question determined by a Judge (or Tribunal Member). The other party to the proceedings will also be present, and you will both put your 'case' to the Judge on a particular issue. Evidence and court documents will be presented to the Judge, as necessary, and the Judge will make a decision on the answer to that issue or question.

How long is a Court Hearing?

There are many types of court hearings, and many different questions that can be determined by the Court or Tribunal. Depending on the type of hearing, a hearing can take 5 minutes or 5 weeks.

How to prepare for a Court Hearing

The first step leave the photocopier alone.

Your next steps will depend on what type of Court hearing it is. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will do most of the preparation, and will tell you what you need to do, if anything.

If you do not have a lawyer, you will need to have all of your papers and thoughts organised beforehand. Some common things to do before a hearing can include:

  • Ensuring that the Court has clear, legible copies of all of the documents and evidence that you want to rely on to support your case. Please keep in mind that the Court will only want to see evidence and documents necessary for the purpose of that hearing, and not necessarily the proceeding as a whole
  • Having with you on the day copies of all court documents (both yours and the other party's)
  • Writing out what your arguments are. This is a trick that all lawyers use and will be very useful to you so that you remember what you want to say. You will, in essence, be saying what you want from the Court and why
  • Planning your day in advance to reduce as much stress as possible on the day. Confirm the date, time and location of your hearing. Plan how long it will take you to get into Court, what the public transport or traffic times will be, parking etc. Plan to arrive early. You will be able to find your hearing details on the hearing notice or on the Court or Tribunal's website. Courts and Tribunals will have daily hearing lists available. Usually these lists are put on the website the afternoon before the hearing and will confirm what court room your hearing will be in
  • Taking a note pad to write on during the hearing and
  • Asking questions if you are unsure about anything, call the Court or Tribunal Registry. Have your proceeding number handy. They will be able to assist you with any procedural questions. They will not, however, be able to give you legal advice.

What to wear to a Court Hearing

You must be dressed neatly and appropriately. No hats or offensive slogans. Corporate wear is a safe theme to follow.

Courtroom Protocol

How to act in a courtroom is important, so we have listed some basic courtroom protocols for you to follow:

First, be on time a no brainer. The Court may proceed with the hearing without you.

Secondly, turn off your mobile phone!

Thirdly, respect. You must show the Judge and the Court respect at all times, including:

  • Whenever the Judge enters or leaves the courtroom, you will need to stand. The Associate will instruct everybody when to do so
  • When the Court is in session, you must pause and bow your head to the Judge as you enter and leave the courtroom
  • You must call a Judge "Your Honour" or a Tribunal Member "Sir" or "Madam"
  • Do not interrupt the Judge or your opponent when they are speaking, even if you do not agree with what they are saying. You will get your chance to speak
  • If you are in a Court (not a Tribunal), you must stand when you are speaking to the Judge or the Judge speaks to you and
  • At the end of the hearing, regardless of what the Judge decides, you must say "As the Court pleases" at the very end of the hearing.

What now?

For information on what happens in a court hearing, read Part 2 : A Case of the Denny Denuto's.

Court hearings are extremely important to the outcome of any proceedings. Your legal position, your preparation and your behaviour in the courtroom will all affect the Judge's decision. Court hearings can also be extremely nerve racking and confusing, particularly if you have not engaged with the legal system before.

At Sharrock Pitman Legal we can help you understand the requirements of your Court hearing and advise you on the process and your options. If you need advice or assistance, please contact us and it would be our pleasure to assist you. Call Sharrock Pitman Legal today on 1300 205 506.

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

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For further information contact

Simon Matters

Simon is a Senior Associate of Sharrock Pitman Legal.

He is an Accredited Commercial Litigation Specialist (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria) and deals with Litigation, Mediation of Disputes, and Law for Charities & Not for Profits. For further information, contact Simon Matters on his direct line (03) 8561 3324.

More on

Litigation [Courts & Tribunals]

If you are ever involved in any form of legal proceedings, you will need to participate in a court hearing at some point. Are you wondering what to expect at your first court hearing?

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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About Sharrock Pitman Legal

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.