The role of Executor is one that carries great responsibility and trust, as you are tasked with carrying out someone’s final wishes. Being an Executor can be difficult, particularly when there is conflict regarding the Estate.
Your role as Executor commences as soon as the deceased has passed away. You will be responsible for making funeral arrangements, obtaining the Death Certificate, locating the deceased’s Will, applying for a Grant of Probate and advising family and friends of the deceased’s passing and the funeral arrangements. You must also contact all beneficiaries named in the Will, including those who may now reside overseas.
As Executor, you will need to establish a complete overview of the deceased’s finances, assets and liabilities. Any funeral expenses, income tax, and fees for administering the Estate must be paid out of the Estate by the Executor. It is also important that the Executor establishes any debtors or creditors of the deceased.
Given as Executor you become responsible for the deceased’s assets once they pass away, it is crucial that these are identified, valued, secured and insured. This way, they are protected until they are sold or bequeathed in accordance with the terms of the Will.
If the deceased owned a business, the Executor must determine if the business was operated as a Sole Trader, Partnership or Company. Once this has been identified, as Executor you will need to determine if the business will continue to operate or be wound up. You may need to sell assets of the business, organise tax issues and invest funds.
There are also small but equally as important tasks that an Executor must undertake. These are not always obvious. Did the deceased have any pets? If so, you must arrange for them to be cared for. Does the deceased have any outstanding bills or services that need to be cancelled? As the Executor, you will need to make arrangements for these bills to be paid from Estate funds and the accounts closed down to avoid further charges.
If required, you may also need to address the taxation issues which arise both for the deceased but also for the deceased’s estate. This may require both a “date of death tax return” and an “estate tax return”.
There is no doubt that acting as an Executor can be challenging, even with a relatively simple Estate. For some complex Estates, it may be preferable for the Executor to have some background in law, business or finance to assist. However, your task will be made more straightforward and less burdensome if you have an experienced legal team standing alongside you guiding you through the estate administration process.
Our lawyers specialise in Estate administration including applications for Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration. They can assist you in a sensitive, professional and timely manner and guide you through any questions or issues which arise whilst you act in your role of Executor.
If you require advice or further information in relation to any of the matters discussed in this article, please contact our Wills, Estates and Succession Planning team on 03 5273 5203.