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Becoming an executor of a will – what does it mean?

Posted by Michael Bromley
15 April

In our previous article Beneficiary? Bequest? The A–Z of wills and estates terms, we defined an executor as ‘the person appointed in a will who has responsibility and authority to manage the estate of the deceased person.’ But what does the role of executor of a will actually entail? 

At Arenburg Legal we recognise that the executor of a will has many, many responsibilities – and that they can be personally liable should they fail to perform these correctly. That’s why in this post we’re digging deeper into the role and responsibilities of an executor. 

So, what are these responsibilities? 

An executor’s responsibilities include: 

  • Getting hold of the will and applying for probate;
  • Notifying the beneficiaries of what they’re receiving and when; 
  • Getting getting control of the deceased’s assets (this includes ensuring that there is insurance to protect the assets); 
  • Identifying any creditors; 
  • Dealing with those creditors (ensuring they get paid); 
  • Dealing with any tax issues, including a tax return for the estate; 
  • Ensuring that the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will; and 
  • Preparing a record of accounts of how the estate was administered and the assets were disposed of (at the end of the process).

What else do I need to know about being an executor? 

It’s important that you understand what these responsibilities entail before you agree to be an executor. By this we mean considering the practicability of you managing someone’s estate. For example, do you live or are you able to travel to the deceased’s estate in order to access and distribute their assets? Do you have the time needed to manage an estate? 

As we said before, there’s some personal liability involved in being an executor as well – so be absolutely certain that you are willing and able to take on these responsibilities before agreeing to be somebody’s executor. 

What if I don’t want to be the executor of a will, but I’m asked to be?

If you decide at some point that you don’t want to be the executor, then you need to tell your solicitor as soon as possible and ideally before probate has been obtained.  Let your solicitor know as soon as possible that you want to remove yourself as the executor and have an alternative executor appointed. Once probate has been obtained and you’ve been appointed the administrator of an estate, resigning from being an executor becomes very difficult.

Once you’ve made the decision to resign (and communicated this to your solicitor), refrain from doing any other actions that are consistent with the role of an executor. This means stopping managing the estate or any assets of the deceased. But, you can still arrange a funeral. Arranging a funeral is not considered an executor’s action and doing so will not ‘force’ you into the role of an executor.

If you are seeking legal advice regarding wills and estates, please don’t hesitate to contact Arenburg Legal on +61 (07) 31815554 or .