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Considerations for executors

01 December 2023

Guide Executors

Understanding the role of an executor

An executor is responsible for managing your assets after you die and distributing them according to your wishes. It is often a time-consuming and demanding role. It can also be emotionally draining, especially if they were close to you.

 

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.

Who makes a good executor?

Your executor is legally-responsible for following the instructions in your will and has to ensure your estate is protected and managed effectively until your assets are distributed to beneficiaries. Many people name someone in their family, for example, siblings and adult children as an executor. Make sure you ask them if they are willing to take on the role, so they are aware of their responsibilities when the time comes. Although this is often seen as an honour, it can be an onerous and stressful task, especially if there is potential for a family dispute.

 

You can name more than one person or a professional trustees company to be an executor, which can be useful as they might want to divide the tasks between them when managing your estate. It will be helpful if your executors are organised, good at handling paperwork and able to manage legal issues.

 

Above all choose a person or organisation you trust to be your executor(s). They are going to be acting on your behalf when the time comes, so you need to be assured the executor(s) you choose have the skills and expertise to focus on getting the best outcome for your beneficiaries.

Tasks of an executor

Simply put, your executor makes sure your estate is dealt with according to your wishes. This can be quite complicated, even with the most straightforward estates. Your executor will need to:

  • Identify all your assets and liabilities
  • Apply for probate
  • Prepare tax returns for you and your estate
  • Defend your estate from any legal claims
  • Mediate and resolve any disputes between beneficiaries
  • Distribute the proceeds of your estate.

Property

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.

Motor vehicles

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

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.

Useful resources

Guide

Will writing guide

Read more
Checklist

Executor checklist

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Guide

8 reasons to update your will

Read more

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