An executor is a person nominated by a testator to administer their last will and testament in the event of their death. In reality, an executor’s duties are quite wide-ranging, covering a number of different areas relevant to the closure of the deceased party’s affairs.
The following is a comprehensive, though not necessarily exhaustive, rundown of the responsibilities an executor will take on.
Handling the Finances
During the course of an executor’s duties, they must attend to the finances of the deceased. This includes settling any outstanding debts they may have such as funeral expenses, outstanding tax liabilities and legal fees. These liabilities may be covered by selling assets of the deceased’s estate, though it should be noted that executors can be held liable for undue wasting of the estate’s assets.
The executor should also finalise the deceased’s taxation affairs, work with an accountant and ensure all tax returns are completed.
Administering the Will
Once the proper will has been located, the executor may need to apply for a grant of probate from the Supreme Court before administering it. This grant affirms that the will is valid and the executor has the legal right to take control of the deceased’s assets to deal with as necessary. The executor may then begin the process of collecting income the deceased has accrued as well as locating assets, confirming they are insured and looked after.
Once all the necessary people have been notified of the testator’s death, including family, friends and beneficiaries of the will, the executor can distribute the estate as per the provisions set out in the will. This process may involve transferring ownership of property to beneficiaries, paying out particular legacies that have been arranged for and dispensing personal effects.
The executor may need to establish trusts if a beneficiary is under the age of 18, is not mentally capable or there was an injunction set down in the will to do so.
The executor should apply for a death certificate and ensure that all relevant accounts such as those for phones, internet and electricity are closed.
Funeral arrangements are also an important consideration. The executor must make sure that any instructions in the will are followed with respect to the funeral as well as organ donation and how the deceased’s remains are to be handled.
As you can see, the role of an executor can be extensive and it is extremely important that it is carried out correctly. We strongly recommend engaging legal professionals to assist you before administering the will. At Life Law Solutions, we can help you through the process.
Once you have made an appointment with us, please be sure to bring along all items and documentation relevant to the deceased’s affairs. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but the following list may serve as a guideline for your consideration. Don’t incur any expense to locate any items that you don’t have or cannot easily get.
• Documents relating to ownership of property and a release of the mortgage if applicable
• Recent receipts for utilities
• Premium Notices on the building and contents of the property
• Bank, Building Society or Credit Union Passbooks or Statements covering the two periods prior to death
• Details of Shares, Debentures, Loans, Bonds, Rollovers, Interest Bearing Deposits etc, together with all relevant Receipts and original Certificates
• Registration certificates and premium insurance notices for any vehicles
• Life Assurance Policies and Bonus Certificates and any recent correspondence
• Details of wages and/or Superannuation, along with any Group Certificates
• Pension Cards or pension number if the card cannot be located;
• Medicare card
• Private health fund membership number, if applicable
• Copies of the last Income Tax Return and Notice of Assessment, together with deductions for the final return. If a tax agent prepared the return, please provide their name and address. If the copies of the tax return cannot be located, you must provide the deceased’s tax file number.
• Details of debts, including funeral expenses, along with tax invoices and receipts if paid
• Name/s and address/addresses of the Deceased’s children and their dates and places of birth OR the name/s and address/addresses of those persons named in the Will, if known;
• If there is no Will, all Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates (if available) should be produced for noting and return;
• Bring along any other item you consider relevant to administering the will.