Unfortunately, you don't always know that you have been mentioned in a will into significantly after the estate has been settled. This fact can make it challenging to know when and how to contact the executor of an estate. Here are some broad guidelines to keep in mind.
Time limits for appeal
Estates are generally settled within 12 months, with family members having up to 6 months to bring forward family provisions (such as a claim of support for grandchildren or stepchildren) depending on the state that the will was created and lodged in (which may be different to the state where the deceased person died). The executor needs to use appropriate methods to contact people who are mentioned in the will, which traditionally include placing notices in newspapers and sending letters to the last known addresses. These days it's also common to try and contact people through electronic means including sending emails and contacting people through social media networks.
Appropriate efforts of the executor
If you don't feel that the executor has made appropriate efforts to find you or other people mentioned in the will, or has otherwise acted in bad faith intentionally or unintentionally, you can apply to the court to get them removed as executor. You can in some situations also sue the executor if you feel they have done this to maximise their own benefit from the will to get your portion of the will reallocated from the money they have been given. The court will judge the actions of the executor and compare this to normal and appropriate behaviours for an executor.
Alternative provisions for support
Even if the estate has been closed, there may still be other assets that you can potentially claim against that sit outside of the estate include superannuation benefits. In order to claim against these external assets it can be a good idea to get some support from a lawyer to help you draft a strong application detailing why your claim should be paid out.
If you feel a need to challenge a will or to claim against a deceased estate after a long period of time, it is important to get advice from an experienced estate lawyer. They can help you to draft an appropriate appeal or help ensure that you are treated fairly within the estate. It's important to get timely legal advice as getting proceedings started quickly can maximise your chances of successfully claiming against the deceased estate.