3 Ways to Support an Executor

Executors have a pretty tough job. Here are our top tips for supporting someone who’s responsible for settling a deceased estate.
3 Ways to Support an Executor

If you’ve been reading our Guides for a while now, you’d likely be well-versed in the world of estate planning, Will-writing, and managing the assets of a loved one after they pass. You’d likely also know that being tasked with the job of ‘executor’ after an individual has died is a big job, and one that should never be taken lightly.

What is an executor?

We’ve written an entire guide on what an executor is, and what they’re responsible for. But, to keep things simple, we’ll provide you with a quick definition here:

An executor of a Will (in Australia) is a person – or multiple people – chosen by a Will-maker to carry out their final wishes after they pass away. This can involve locating the individual’s Will, dividing and distributing assets (financial and personal), organising the funeral, obtaining probate, protecting the estate, and administering the estate.

Why can it be so challenging to be an executor?

Well, if the definition above isn’t enough for you to dramatically wipe the sweat from your brow, here are three reasons as to why executorship can be so darn difficult:

  1. It can take 18 months (or more!) to settle an estate. That’s… a long time.
  2. An executor is legally empowered to act on behalf of the estate. As a result, they’re expected to pay all debts (out of the funds available in the estate), file taxes, work through the probate process, and so much more.
  3. There can be disagreements or family drama after a loved one passes away. The executor is often (read: usually) the person who has to deal with so many of these conflicts as they have the responsibility to manage and administer the estate.

It’s also important to remember that an executor is typically a close friend or family member of the deceased. They’re therefore likely struggling with their own grief, while also helping others manage their grief. Add executorship onto these pre-existing struggles, and you’ve got yourself a pretty challenging task.

How can I best support an executor?

If you have a friend or family member who has been tasked with the role of ‘executor’ after someone has passed, there are a few big ways you can show them support while they navigate through the probate and executorship process.

Here are three of our top tips for supporting an executor:

Offer to help them out when they need it.

An executor typically does most of the Will-related legwork themselves – they’re legally obligated to, after all. However, offering your assistance as, well, an assistant, can be an easy way to ease some of their strain and make the process a little less daunting.

Consider offering assistance in some of these areas, as a starting point:

  • Ask if they’d like help researching the process or getting in touch with relevant services who might be able to help them out. This can include contacting banks, insurance companies, doctors, funeral parlours, and more.
  • ⁠Offer to help clean out the deceased person’s house, locate important personal belongings and financial documents, and organise everything so the executor doesn’t have to do it all themselves.
  • Help them share the sad news by contacting relatives, friends, colleagues and important people in the deceased person’s life to let them know your loved one has passed away and to inform them of any funeral or memorial services happening soon.
  • Prepare meals so the executor doesn’t have to worry about what they’ll be making (or eating) for dinner. Sometimes even a doorstep drop-off of milk and bread can make a big difference in the life of someone grieving (and in the life of someone who has a big task on their hands).

Prepare meals so the executor doesn’t have to worry about what they’ll be making (or eating) for dinner.

Sometimes even a doorstep drop-off of milk and bread can make a big difference in the life of someone grieving (and in the life of someone who has a big task on their hands). However, if you’re in the mood to cook up a storm – or make something hearty – we’ve written a guide on our favourite sympathy meals almost everyone will love.

Remind them that they can choose to resign.

Something many people forget is that executorship isn’t compulsory. Just because you’ve been elected as an executor of a loved one’s estate, doesn’t mean you have to carry out the role.

If the executor of your loved one’s estate is struggling immensely with grief – or if they feel as though they can’t handle the job – it might be worth reminding them, gently, that they can choose to resign. The stakes are high if the process isn’t carried out efficiently or effectively, so sometimes this can be a really good option for those not wanting to carry the task out.

It’s not uncommon for executors to change, and the process of electing a new executor is generally an easy and clear one; the original executor will have to make a clear choice to resign, and they’ll have to notify the court of their intention. Any delays in this process will mean the original executor will remain the executor until all necessary steps are taken to ensure they can step down from their position.

Wrap up

Watching a loved one take on the role of executor can be challenging, especially because you often can’t help them out with the nitty-gritty of estate administration. However, we hope these three tips will help you help them in just a few small ways, so they feel a little less alone and a whole lot more supported while they plan, organise, distribute and grieve.

Now that we’ve gotten you thinking about executors, choosing executors, the role of an executor, and how you can best support an executor, we thought it might be the perfect time to ask: Have you chosen an executor for your Will? You can write your Will online in just 15 minutes with Willed. And yep, that’ll include the opportunity to elect your own loved one as executor should *ahem* the inevitable happen.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, medical, accounting or tax advice.

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