Commonly Asked Questions
We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about the role of an executor and the administration of a deceased estate.
An executor is the person or organisation that you have appointed to be responsible for carrying out the wishes you have stated in your Will. Your executor is responsible for the entire administration of your estate until all of your assets have been distributed to your beneficiaries.
Anybody can be an executor, however, if the executor is under 18 years of age the Court will appoint the child’s guardian as the executor until the child reaches 18 years of age. Your executor must be someone with the capacity to administer complex legal and financial affairs, although they can also seek advice on and support to carry out their duties.
Many people appoint a friend or relative as their executor. This may be a way of expressing respect for that person, but in reality it can be a time consuming, complex, and challenging task. Your executor is taking on a big responsibility at a time when they may be grieving.
When selecting your executor you must be satisfied that they will be in the position, and have the knowledge and skills, to carry out the administration of your estate.
It is important to consider any conflicts of interest that may arise when appointing an executor. For example, appointing an executor who is also a beneficiary of your estate may place them in a difficult position where there is either a real or perceived conflict of interest.
You must talk with those you are considering appointing as your executor, to make sure they are willing to take on the role.
You can also choose to appoint us as your executor. We will administer your estate competently and impartially, and ensure that your wishes, as expressed in your Will, are carried out. You can have the peace of mind of knowing exactly how much our services will cost and that these fees will not change regardless of how long the administration of your estate takes. Your beneficiaries will never receive any unexpected invoices for our administration services.
The basic duties of an executor include:
- locating the original Will
- ensuring that appropriate funeral arrangements are in place
- identifying all of your assets and liabilities
- applying for probate
- preparing tax returns
- dealing with any legal claims made against the estate
- managing the required paperwork in a timely way
- finding all of the beneficiaries of the estate
- managing all the finances of the estate
- keeping records of everything they do as an executor
- mediating and resolve any disputes between beneficiaries
- distributing the proceeds of the estate in accordance with the deceased person’s Will.
They may also have other tasks depending on the complexity of the Will, the assets involved, and the specific wishes of the deceased person.
When a person dies, everything they own forms their estate. The estate can include real estate, house contents, money in bank accounts, investments, shares, motor vehicles, jewellery, and other possessions. Assets that are owned jointly do not form part of the estate and pass directly to the other owner/s by survivorship. Superannuation generally passes to the named nominee or spouse and does not usually form part of the estate.
The administration of a deceased estate is the legal process that takes place from the time of death through to the finalisation of all matters relating to the assets of the estate, including the distribution of these assets to the beneficiaries.
If there is a valid Will, the executor begins the administration of the estate when the person dies.
If there is no Will, administration starts when a grant to administer (Letters of Administration) has been issued by the Supreme Court Probate Registry. This may take some time and it is important that steps are taken to protect the deceased person’s estate assets in the meantime, which may include putting certain items such as valuable jewellery and antique furniture into storage, and ensuring valuable items are insured.
A grant of probate, generally referred to as probate, is a formal document issued by the Supreme Court. It confirms that the Will of a deceased person has been proven to be properly executed and grants the right to administer the estate to the executor named in the Will.
Prior to probate, the executor has the discretion to decide who is entitled to a copy of the Will, although copies will usually be provided to the beneficiaries sharing in the residue of the estate.
The Will is lodged with the Supreme Court Probate Registry as part of the probate application. Once probate has been issued the Will becomes public record and anyone can apply to the Probate Registry for a copy. The process for the granting of probate can take several months.