Help! I’ve been appointed as an executor

17-April-2023 Estates

Sadly, it is a fact of life that each one of us will experience the loss of a loved one at some point. Solicitor Tamara Stevanovic provides 8 helpful tips to assist and give peace of mind to those of you who have been appointed as an executor of your loved one’s Will.

The role of being appointed as an executor can be both complex, time consuming and emotionally draining, however it doesn’t have to be. Streeterlaw Estate experts can assist you through this process and help you navigate your way as you give effect to your loved one’s final wishes.

The executor is a person appointed by the Will maker or Testator to stand in place of the Deceased in order to legally administer and deal with the estate assets. This position is one of a fiduciary duty and you have a positive obligation to act in the best interests of the estate.

Your duty is threefold:

  1. Reduce the assets of the Estate into possession.
  2. Pay the debts of the Estate; and
  3. After the payment of debts and expenses, oversee the administration of the estate to those beneficially entitled under the will.

Appointed as an executor

Each estate varies and the tasks you may be required to do will be individual to your circumstances. Generally, these tasks may include:

1. Organising funeral arrangements

When you are appointed as an executor, you will need to organise the funeral arrangements as soon as possible after death in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. You should also discuss these arrangements with the deceased’s family.

2. Identifying Assets and Liabilities

As part of your role, you will need to identify the assets and liabilities of the deceased as at the date of death. You may be required to sort through the deceased’s personal effects to locate evidence of assets and outstanding debts or you may be required to contact banks and other third-party providers to identify these assets.

3. Applying for Probate

You will need to apply for a grant of probate from the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Probate is where the Will is proved to be valid and recognises the legal authority of the Executor to administer the deceased’s assets. Probate will be required where the deceased had real property, bank accounts and/or shares in order to sell, transmit or transfer these assets to the beneficiaries.

4. Protecting the assets

When an appointed as an executor, you will need to protect and preserve the assets including maintaining insurances where required to ensure the assets are available for the beneficiaries. You need to be active in administering the estate to ensure that assets do not deteriorate and are dealt with in a timely manner and if sold, are sold at fair market value. For example, a failure to sell a property at fair market value will diminish the benefit available to beneficiaries and you may be held personally liable for that reduction.

5. Paying the Debts

It is important that you have an understanding of what the liabilities of the estate are and that you pay the debts in a timely manner. In some cases, it will be necessary to inform the creditor that probate is being applied for to avoid any late or missed payment fees and that the debt will be settled once probate is received.

6. Lodging tax returns

You may need to lodge tax returns for the estate. We recommend you obtain advice from a qualified accountant in this regard.

7. Distributing the assets as per the Will

When an appointed as an executor, you will need to distribute the assets as per the Will. This may involve transferring properties or shares to a beneficiary or making a lump sum payment of cash to the beneficiaries. During this process you will need to prove who you are and that you are legally authorised to deal with the Deceased’s estate.

8. Maintaining proper records and receipts

We strongly recommend that you maintain proper records and receipts of each asset that you deal with. It is important that beneficiaries provide a receipt that they have received the asset in whatever form to avoid you facing personal liability for failing to administer the estate.

Each estate is unique. If you are unsure where to start or you are feeling overwhelmed, contact our team at Streeterlaw on 1300 293 593 to assist you on this journey and guide you as you give effect to your loved one’s wishes. Alternatively, leave a message on our Facebook Page. 


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