The executor of an estate is the person (or people) who have been appointed in a Will to manage the assets of the estate and carry out the wishes of the deceased. Often the person chosen is a family member or close friend, somebody the deceased trusts to take on the serious role.
Some common duties that an executor can expect to fulfil include making funeral arrangements, collecting the deceased’s assets, ensuring any liabilities of the estate are paid and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries. It is important that the executor ensures that they are carrying out their duties impartially, free from any personal bias.
Duties and Responsibilities
Obtaining A Grant Of Probate
Making an application for Probate to the Court is generally one of the first steps that an estate executor needs to make, which includes the preparation and filing of various documents. A Grant of Probate confirms the validity of the executor to manage the estate. A Grant of Probate gives the executor the right to deal with certain assets, such as real estate and money in bank accounts above a certain amount.
Manage The Estate
Managing the estate of the deceased can be complicated and time consuming. As the executor you are expected to keep detailed, accurate records of the management and distribution of the estate. Creating an itemised list with descriptions of all the assets can be a helpful way to keep yourself organised, especially when dealing with a large estate.
Carrying out the wishes and distributing the assets of the Will is the main duty of an executor. It involves putting the best interests of the estate and the Will’s beneficiaries first and ensuring that things progress the way the deceased wanted them to.
Part of managing the estate includes ensuring that any debt, tax or liabilities associated with the estate are dealt with before the estate is distributed. Additionally, the executor must also make sure that the assets of the estate do not lose value, such as any money that is collected from the sale of assets but is not distributed immediately. In situations such as this, the money may need to be invested.
In Victoria, any person intending to contest or challenge a Will must commence legal action within 6 months of Probate being granted. Therefore, it is advisable for executors to wait until this time has passed before distributing any assets. Along with distributing the assets to the beneficiaries, the executor will also need to provide summaries of the financial transactions for the estate to the beneficiaries.
Communicating With The Beneficiaries
The executor is responsible for keeping beneficiaries informed and trying to minimise conflicts between beneficiaries, although they are not able to take sides. It can be a very emotional and tense time for people coming to terms with their grief and clear communication can often help limit the amount of arguments.
Breaching Your Executor Obligations
In the case of an executor breaching their obligations, they may be held liable. Breaches are caused by events such as losing uninsured assets, loss in the estate due to unreasonable administration delay, distribution in a way that is not in line with the wishes of the Will, and loss of the estate due to premature distribution in the case of a claimant.
For more information about Administration and Probate Law in Victoria, follow this link: http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/aapa1958259/
Sometimes multiple executors may be appointed to one estate. Not every person needs to act as an executor; one or more of the appointed people may choose to renounce the role or every person may accept the role. In these cases the executors are expected to consult with each other and agree on a course of action.
Probate that is granted to several executors is done in a way that gives each executor joint authority. As such, any action dealing with property or bank accounts that would generally require the executor to have a grant of probate will require all of the multiple executors to act in agreement.
For executor duties that don’t require a Grant of Probate, any of the executors can act without the signatures of the other, but it is assumed that all are in agreement of the actions.
Refusing The Role Of Executor
If you have been appointed as an executor in a Will, you do not have to accept the role. You can renounce the role by signing a renunciation. However, you can only renounce the role before attending to any tasks as an executor; if you have started to perform duties as an executor, you will no longer be able to renounce the position.
For advice or more information about executors you can get in touch with the JPLegal team here.