An executor is a person (or organisation) appointed in a Will to be responsible for carrying out the wishes of someone after they pass away. Some of the responsibilities role of an executor are to obtain the death certificate, locate the original Will, advise family and friends, arrange and pay for the funeral, apply for a grant of probate and act on any special instructions from the deceased.
Unless an executor is sufficiently skilled or properly advised there is a real chance they could be out of pocket at the end of the process of administering a deceased estate.
An executor is responsible for all the assets of a deceased estate. An executor must identify the estate assets including any that are interstate or overseas. This includes homes, cars, superannuation, jewellery, investments and home contents etc.
For example, when dealing with property assets, an executor should consider who has access to that property, if the property is insured, whether the policy is up to date and whether terms and conditions of the policy are being met.
Where motor vehicles are concerned, an executor should determine who has the keys, who drives the vehicle, the status of the vehicle’s insurance policy and, consider who’s responsible for costs if there’s an accident.
Reaching out to beneficiaries
An executor acts as a legally appointed representative to protect the assets of a deceased estate until they can be passed on to beneficiaries. This includes those beneficiaries who might reside interstate or overseas. Executors work to mandatory waiting periods for deceased estate administration tasks such as obtaining a Grant of Probate and conveyancing. It is good practice for executors to communicate regularly with beneficiaries to ensure there aren’t any misunderstandings or conflict about the process of deceased estate administration.
Reducing the risk of claims
One thing that can be overlooked is the risk of claims against the estate. Once an executor obtains a Grant of Probate Victorian law provides for a six month period in which someone may make a claim on the estate. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘Testator Family Maintenance’ (TFM) period. A TFM claim is a claim against an estate for money by a member of the testators’ family who believes they were entitled to more from the will than they receive. Claims don’t happen on every estate but, mishandling one can cost the estate.
Claims requesting for a share of funds or a greater share of funds are sometimes made by estranged family members and ex-partners of the deceased. If an executor was to pay out the funds in an estate before the TFM period expires and a claim later arose that was valid, an executor may end up paying for the legal bills and any settlement amount out of their own pocket.
Being an executor often means having to make some tough decisions. It helps to have some experience in finance, business or law which can assist to resolve estate issues, liabilities and disputes.
Executor Assist is a tailored service offering from State Trustees for executors who wish to retain their role but require expert guidance with obtaining a grant of probate and other specific deceased administration tasks.
For executors who do not wish to remain in the role we can take on full legal liability and responsibility for administering a deceased estate, whether or not the person had made a Will before they died.
State Trustees administers more deceased estates than anyone else in Victoria. To find out more about our Executor Services call us today on 03 9667 6444 or 1300 138 672 (outside Melbourne) for a confidential, obligation-free discussion.