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How do you appoint an executor of a will?

16 Nov 2020

Ready to choose the Executor of Your Will? Here’s what you should know.

When writing your will, one of the biggest decisions you will make is choosing your executor. Your executor will manage your estate when you die. It can be a family member, friend, lawyer or other professional, or a trustee company such as State Trustees. Either way, there are a few things you should consider before selecting someone for this important role.

What does an executor do?

The main obligations of an executor are quite straightforward. It’s important to pick someone who is dependable, well-organised, honest and vigilant.

Some of the tasks the executor usually needs to complete include:

  • Applying for a death certificate
  • Applying for a grant of probate
  • Finding and contacting the beneficiaries (people who are left something in the person’s will), including anyone interstate or overseas
  • Protecting the person’s assets. You need to make sure the assets are safe so that they can be given out as the person wanted them to be. This might include taking out insurance or making an inventory
  • Providing death notifications to the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink and banks
  • Paying any outstanding bills and debts from estate funds and arranging to have assets valued
  • Defending the estate against legal action
  • Resolving disputes between beneficiaries
  • Lodging tax returns if needed
  • Claiming life insurance and superannuation
  • Setting up trusts and administering them, if that is part of the instructions in the will. A trust might be set up to look after and protect assets for a child until they reach a certain age
  • Dealing with any real estate that is part of the estate, including getting the property ready for sale
  • Distributing assets according to what is in the will
  • Providing a full accounting of your administration of the estate to beneficiaries.

You can choose to administer the estate yourself or ask a trustee company, like us, to administer the estate for you

Who can be an executor

Anyone above the age of 18 can act as an executor of the will. It can be a family member, friend, lawyer or other professional, or a trustee company such as State Trustees. When choosing an executor, they should be someone you trust who has the skills and time to manage complex legal and financial matters when you’re gone.

Get their approval first

Whoever you choose to appoint as executor, it’s a good idea to let them know before naming them in your will. Once you’ve made the decision, have a chat with them regarding your financial details and let them know where all your important documents and financial information are kept. This will make it a lot easier on the executor to get all your affairs in order when you’re gone.

Professional executors could be the better option

While professional qualifications are not required to act as executor, there are complexities that come with a deceased estate which may require professional assistance. Consider choosing a professional executor if you are worried things could turn sour between family and friends after reading your will. While this can come at a cost, it may be advantageous to ensure it is dealt with in a professional manner.

This approach may also be suitable if you don’t have a close relative or friend to choose as executor. A trustee company such as State Trustees can help in situations that may be complicated or ones that may require long-term administration. Appointing a professional can also help avoid problems if family members are unhappy with the terms or an appointed executor dies. A professional executor’s responsibility is to act objectively in line with your wishes.

Being an executor can be overwhelming and it is understandable for people to feel lost as to where to start. State Trustees administers more deceased estates than any other organisation in Victoria. Our expert team understands all the aspects, and challenges, of deceased estate management and work with executors and grieving families daily to ensure administration is impartial and in the best interests of all.

If you have any questions about will writing or deceased estate administration, call us today on 03 9667 6444.

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