So you’ve been appointed as an executor under a Will. The office of executor carries significant power and responsibilities. There are a number of things to do:
- Locate the original Will of the deceased
The original Will should confirm your appointment as executor. It’s important to establish your authority to act as early as possible. It is unwise to take action without satisfying yourself that you have in fact been appointed.
- Apply for the Death Certificate
Proof of death is clearly important, and the document may be needed if the estate requires you to apply for a Grant of Probate.
- Advise friends and family
The next step is to ensure that the family and friends of the deceased know of the death. In some cases this may not be necessary; in others it will be essential. As part of the process of dealing with the deceased’s estate, any financial institution which the deceased held accounts with must also be notified (e.g. banks, Centrelink, etc.).
- Follow requests in the Will
After reviewing the Will, follow up on any specific directions or requests the deceased may have made. These will usually relate to the funeral and the service, but there may be other matters to attend to.
- Arrange the funeral
If not already arranged by other family members, arrange and pay for the funeral. If you are paying, you should ensure that you keep all receipts for payment so that reimbursement may be claimed when appropriate.
- Compile a list of assets and liabilities
Next, you will need to compile a list of all of the deceased’s assets and liabilities at time of death. Some assets require a Grant of Probate for the executor to sell or otherwise deal with. A decision should be made as to whether a Grant is required. If so, the relevant documentation must be prepared for submission to the Supreme Court.
Once the debts have been confirmed as correct, these must be paid. Any tax owed by the deceased must also be assessed and paid before distribution.
- Notify beneficiaries and distribute estate
All beneficiaries under the Will should be notified. The terms of the Will must be carried out and the estate correctly distributed according to law.
In some estates there may be legal action to take or to defend (in relation to a debt claimed against the estate, for instance) before matters can be finalised. In others, there may be ongoing trusts set up by the deceased’s Will requiring careful review and administration. Conflicts of interest must be avoided by the executor, as must unnecessary delays.
In many estates, there are substantial issues that need to be worked through as part of administration, and the legal obligations of executors are high. Our lawyers are well versed in the various aspects of obtaining the various grants (such as Grant of Probate) and administering an estate, and are able to ensure that you, as executor, avoid expensive errors that may attract personal liability.