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How to be an executor

16 Nov 2020

A Quick Guide for the Executor of a Will

If you’ve been appointed as executor, your main role is to represent the testator, who has passed away, in finalising their estate – which means their financial and legal affairs. This task may be intimidating and daunting at first, but breaking it down piece by piece makes the whole process much more manageable.

The estate includes all the person’s assets and liabilities. Their assets are their property and belongings that have value, such as a house, car, shares and investments. Their liabilities consist of any money they may owe, such as a mortgage or a loan.

First and foremost, you may need to arrange the funeral in accordance with any wishes expressed by the deceased.

Applying for grant of probate

Before you can officially act as executor, you will need to first apply for a grant of probate from the Supreme Court. Essentially, a grant of probate ensures the will is valid and that you have permission to carry out your responsibilities as executor. In some cases probate may not be required, watch this helpful video for more information on probate.

Dealing with the ATO

Working with an accountant if required, it is your job to finalise any outstanding taxation matters with the Australian Taxation Office. Register the deceased’s death by notifying the Commissioner of Taxation. A final tax return will only need to be lodged if the deceased was earning an income above the tax-free threshold before passing away. A trust tax return will also need to be lodged if the estate earns an income.

Gather and protect the assets

As executor, it’s your job to maintain the assets until they can be distributed. This should be your biggest priority as you will want to prevent any personal claims against you from beneficiaries for making a mistake. Contact an expert to get this started right away and ensure you don’t make any oversights in this step. You should ensure that significant assets such as real estate are insured and kept well maintained.

Distributing the estate

This is the final step. You should wait at least six months from the date of the grant of probate before distributing the estate to allow time for a claim to be made. Otherwise, the executor will be personally liable to repay any distribution made to a beneficiary before this time if a claim is made.

What are my rights as an executor?

As an executor, you are generally not entitled to remuneration, but can be if it is provided for in the will or by a court order. The remuneration is typically calculated as a percentage of the value of the estate. The percentage depends on the size of the estate and the amount of work required.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Download our executor checklist to help outline the roles and responsibilities of an executor, a detailed checklist of your tasks and more information about applying for a grant of probate.

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