I have been named Executor
When someone names you as the executor of a Will, you become responsible for their estate and their final wishes on their death. The role of executor can be complex and confusing, even for someone who has taken on this role before as every situation is different.
As the executor you are liable if you distribute, against the wishes of the deceased person as expressed in their Will, to one beneficiary to the detriment of another. You may also be personally liable if you distribute the estate to beneficiaries without settling all debts or if something happens to assets that are uninsured (e.g. such as if expensive jewellery is stolen).
Generally, you cannot be paid for your services as an executor without the approval of the Court, but you can be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses incurred while carrying out your duties.
A professional executor can be paid for their services.
You are not legally obliged to take up the appointment of executor even if you agreed to accept the role while the person was alive. We can help if you decide you want to authorise someone else to act as executor.
You must prepare and lodge a number of documents in the Supreme Court Probate Registry. Documents include the original Will, the death certificate, and a detailed statement of all assets and liabilities of the deceased person as at the date of their death. This statement must be made using a particular format. Further details of what you need to provide and how to make the statement can be found on the Probate Registry website.
Any assets that are jointly owned by the deceased person with a spouse or domestic partner will not be included in their estate. Jointly owned assets will pass to the surviving owner, without having to wait for the estate to be administered.
Even though the legal ownership automatically passes to the survivor, there are tasks to be completed to legally confirm the change in ownership from joint ownership to sole ownership. For most assets or accounts it is simply a matter of writing letters to certain organisations to advise of the death of the spouse or domestic partner. Some companies will have their own forms that you must complete while others will only require a certified copy of the death certificate.
We have provided a checklist of what to do to help you with this task.
A lot can happen in the time between the writing of a Will and the time when the administration of an estate is required. You may find that you are unwilling or unable to undertake all of the duties and responsibilities associated with being an executor. Even if the person who has died specifically asked you to be their executor, it is highly unlikely they would have wanted to put you in a difficult or stressful situation, and they would much rather that you give the responsibilities of an executor to someone else than try to continue with the role to the detriment of your own health and wellbeing. We can help if you decide you want to authorise someone else to act as executor.
You have the option of authorising us to take over as executor.
We can take the pressure off you at a difficult time. Our expert team can manage everything and you can be sure that the estate will be handled professionally and impartially. We can handle the entire administration process.
Most importantly, we will carry out the wishes of the deceased person with sympathetic concern for you, their family, and all of the beneficiaries of their estate.
It is important that if you do decide to appoint us as executor in your place that you do so before you apply for probate if possible. You can change executors after probate has been granted, but you will need permission from the Supreme Court to do so. This is often a complex and time-consuming process and can add unnecessary pressure and stress on you.
If you would like us to administer the estate of your loved one, or you would like to discuss the options available to you please feel free to contact us.
The Public Trustee can be contacted on (08) 8226 9200 or on 1800 673 119 (country SA toll free) between 8.45am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. You can leave a message outside these hours and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Alternatively visit the Contact Us page for more contact options.