Executor’s Role

Have you been named as an Executor of an Estate? The passing of a loved one is never easy, nor are conversations about Wills and Estates. We are here for you if you need assistance or advice about a Will, Estate, or your duties and role as an Executor. We have prepared a brief outline of some of the most common duties and responsibilities.

What is the role of the Executor?

When someone dies, the Executor of their Estate is responsible for handling their final affairs. The executor is typically named in the deceased’s Will or appointed by a court if there is no Will.

What are the key tasks of an Executor?

An Executor’s tasks will vary from person to person, but some of the key tasks you may need to perform include:

  • Locating the Will;
  • Notifying relevant parties of the death;
  • Making funeral arrangements;
  • Gathering & managing assets;
  • Paying outstanding debts & taxes;
  • Distributing assets;
  • Filing necessary legal documents.

Locate the Will – The first step is to locate the deceased’s Will, as it will outline the executor’s duties and provide guidance on how to distribute the estate. The Will may be located at the home of the deceased, held by their legal representative, a relative or by the Executor. A legal Will needs to be signed and witnessed to be valid.

Notify relevant parties – You should notify the deceased’s family, friends, and relevant organisations of the person’s passing. Some organisations may require a copy of the Death Certificate. The Will or the deceased’s Advance Care Directive may indicate who should be notified, and how to get in touch with them. Apart from relatives, some of the more common parties who will need to be notified include:

  • banks and financial institutions,
  • social media providers,
  • landlords/property managers if living in a rental property,
  • an employer or employees,
  • utility providers,
  • insurance companies, including health insurance providers,
  • Australian Tax Office,
  • superannuation fund,
  • vehicle, trailer, caravan or boat registration authorities,
  • storage unit providers,
  • regular care or service providers such as cleaners
  • funeral director if a pre-paid funeral is in place

Make funeral arrangements – As the Executor, you may need to make funeral arrangements, including deciding on a burial or cremation and handling any associated costs. In many cases the deceased’s wishes for a funeral and final resting place are outlined in an Advance Care Directive, and may even be included in a Will, although this is not encouraged. These documents may also indicate whether or not a pre-paid funeral or cemetery plot has already been arranged.

Gather and manage assets – You must identify and gather all of the deceased’s assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property. You will also need to manage and protect these assets until they are distributed to beneficiaries. It is recommended that you prepare a list and photograph any personal property. Be mindful that some family members and other associates of the deceased may need or wish to access the deceased’s property. This access should be supervised and monitored to ensure personal property is not tampered with until the wishes of the deceased can be identified and fulfilled.

Pay outstanding debts and taxes – You must pay any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the deceased or the Estate, using Estate funds. You will need to ensure you know the financial position of the Estate first. When notifying parties where a financial arrangement exists that the deceased has passed explore conditions of breaking contracts and arrange for final accounts to be issued as a matter of urgency. Ensure you also factor in the expenses associated with funeral arrangements.

Distribute assets – After all debts and taxes are paid, and funeral expenses met, as the Executor, you, can then distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the Will, according to the instructions provided.

File necessary legal documents – You will need to file a final tax return for the deceased and any necessary legal documents to close out the estate.

It’s important to note that the specific duties of an Executor can vary based on the size and complexity of the estate, as well as local laws and regulations. It can be a challenging and time-consuming process, so it’s often recommended that you seek guidance from an Estate lawyer and a financial professional to ensure you fulfilling your obligations correctly.

Last Will and Testament on white paper with a black ink pen poised to sign.