I’ve been appointed as an Executor. What are my responsibilities?

I’ve been appointed as an Executor. What are my responsibilities? 9 May 2022
Executor of an Estate

As an Executor, you have been appointed to administer the Estate. Essentially this involves finalising the deceased’s affairs and carrying out the terms of the Will. But what does this actually mean in real terms?

1. Locating the Will

It sound simple, but the first step is to locate the deceased’s Will and that the Will appointing you as Executor, is in fact, the last Will the deceased. Hopefully, when the deceased asked you to be their Executor, they told you where you could find the original Will or a copy. If you hold a copy of the deceased’s Will, it will more than likely detail the contact information for the solicitor who drafted the Will, who will more than likely hold the original.

2. Organise the funeral

It is the responsibility of the Executor to organise the deceased’s funeral and burial. You are not legally required to consult the deceased’s family, but it is recommended that you do so. Court disputes can and do arise about burial disputes so if you have been asked to act as someone’s Executor, we recommend you talk to them about their funeral preferences and document this appropriately.

3. Obtaining a death certificate

On death, the deceased’s next of kin will have been provided with a medical certificate certifying their death. This, however, isn’t the formal document issued by Service NSW which enables you to notify various stakeholders of the deceased’s passing. The funeral director who has handled the deceased’s funeral/burial normally applies for this for you. Service NSW can take up to 4-6 weeks to produce the death certificate.


4. Ascertain what the deceased’s Estate comprises of

The deceased’s Estate is everything that they owned at death. We suggest you make a list of everything the deceased owned, including any debts they had and any income/payments they were entitled to. This list will ultimately form the Inventory of Property. Common assets include:

  • The deceased’s home or other real estate
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Money in the bank
  • Cash
  • Furniture and personal effects
  • Shares and other investments
  • Superannuation
  • Insurance polices
  • Work entitlements.

If you engage a solicitor to assist you with the Estate, it is useful if you know the following for your first appointment:

  • Who the deceased held accounts with?
  • What an approximate value of the Estate assets are?
  • Any member numbers or policy identifiers.
  • Where important information such as deeds are held?

If you engage us to act on the deceased’s Estate, we then use this information to contact asset-holders to verify the assets which fall within the Estate and their exact values. We may ask you to obtain valuations for some property such as real estate, jewellery or antiques, however we can assist you with this process.

5. Notify utility providers

You will want to notify utility providers so that the Estate doesn’t incur costs for services they are not using. This could include some of the following:

  • Internet providers
  • Mobile phone providers
  • Streaming services such as Netflix.
  • Health insurance.

You should notify Centrelink if the deceased was receiving a social security benefit. If the deceased owned a motor vehicle, we recommend that you contact the insurer to notify them of the deceased’s passing but maintain the policy so as to preserve the value of the asset.

If the deceased owned real estate, we again recommend that you contact their insurer and electricity provider to update them. We recommend that you maintain both these accounts until the property is disposed of. This is again particularly important with insurance to ensure that, as Executor, you are preserving the value of the Estate.

You do not need to update rate providers such as the Council or Hunter Water. They are notified once the property is transferred out of the deceased’s name.

6. Obtaining Probate

Not every Estate requires a Grant of Probate. It will depend on the assets falling within the deceased’s Estate and how the assets are hold.

A grant of probate is confirmation by the Supreme Court that the Will is valid. It identifies the executor as the proper person to be handling the deceased’s Estate. For more information about what a grant of probate, and the process involved, is check out our blog on the subject.

We can provide you with advice as to whether we consider a grant of probate is required for the deceased’s Estate.

Estate Planning

7. Administering the Estate

It is the Executor’s responsibility to ensure that all the deceased’s affairs are finalised. This includes closing any accounts, and selling or transferring any investments. Any money remitted from the deceased’s accounts will be remitted to the Estate. These funds can either be paid into our trust account or you can open an Estate account which is possible to do with most financial institutions.

You will also need to pay out the deceased’s debts. There is a set order for paying the deceased’s debts, which is:

  • Funeral expenses. These can usually paid from the deceased’s bank account before Probate has been granted, if there are adequate funds.
  • Legal and Administration expenses.
  • Outstanding tax, including income tax and capital gains tax.
  • All other debts.

8. Distributing the Estate

Once all the assets have been collected, debts have been paid and all expenses have been reimbursed, you can distribute the Estate. We will prepare a statement that outlines the assets owned, how much money has been received and the debts paid. We can distribute the Estate on your behalf by making various payments to the beneficiaries.

9. Defending the Estate

If there is a dispute amongst the family of the deceased about the terms of the Will and someone seeks to contest the Will, the Executor has the responsibility of acting on the Estate’s behalf and defending any ensuing litigation.

We can provide you with advice as to the merits of any of the respective claims made against the Estate and step you through the family provision process.

If you or someone you know has been appointed Executor of someone’s Estate and you need assistance with that role, we can assist you every step of the way. Contact Ustoday to speak to one of our lawyers. We have years of experience helping people with their estate needs throughout the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter region.

This blog was written by Senior Associate,
 Liz McIntyre
Liz practises in the areas of Family Law, Wills & Estate Planning,
Deceased Estates, Wills disputes and Conveyancing

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