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What is an Executor of a Will?

A will-maker appoints the Executor of a will to help administer their estate after they die. They are responsible for managing the deceased person’s estate within the terms of their Will and protecting their assets. The executor can be a person or people and is usually a family member, spouse or trusted advisor to the person who died.

While it can be a compliment to be named the executor of a will, administering an estate isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The process can be lengthy and complicated with legal and financial implications if not handled properly.

What are the responsibilities of an executor?

Typically, an executor’s role is pretty straightforward, but there are lots to think about and get done. Here are the first steps to consider as the executor of a will:

Locating the Will

The first step of an executor is to locate the will. Sometimes the deceased person will have informed the executor of the will’s whereabouts before dying. Other times, they can find a copy in the person’s important papers.

Organising funeral arrangements

Once they can locate the will, the executor is responsible for organising the funeral based on the requests outlined in the will by the deceased. The executor should handle these arrangements should be done as soon as possible.

Obtaining Probate

As the executor, they will need to apply for a grant of probate. Probate is the official recognition that the will is legal and valid. When it comes to releasing any financial assets, most banks, super funds and insurance companies will require probate proof.

Determining the assets and any debt

The executor will create an inventory of property. This is a list of everything the deceased person owned and any entitlements they are owed. The inventory of property should be done as quickly as possible to protect the assets of the estate.

Protecting the estate

Once the executor has an inventory of the assets, they must protect the estate to ensure nothing is mishandled. If the estate is not protected, then the executor could be held liable.

Administer the Estate

After the executor establishes the estate and the funeral arrangements, they can distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. The estate assets and funds can include transferring specific gifts, establishing ongoing trust and paying any remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Can the appointed executor decline the responsibility to handle the will?

The person you appoint is not legally obliged to accept the appointment as executor of the will. It’s always best to discuss with the proposed executor before giving them this role.

If the nominated executor doesn’t wish to handle the will, they could renounce this appointment by applying to the Supreme Court. They must file this before completing any of the responsibilities of the will.

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, accounting or tax advice

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