When a person dies and has left a will, certain legal procedures must be followed prior to a distribution of the estate to beneficiaries.

Executor’s duties

A will almost always appoints an executor. The executor (or executors if more than one is appointed) is responsible for ensuring that these legal procedures are followed.

Things that an executor is responsible for, include: –

  • Finding the will;
  • Arranging for the disposal of the body;
  • Obtaining a death certificate from Births Deaths and Marriages;
  • Determining the deceased’s assets and liabilities;
  • Obtaining a grant of probate (if required);
  • Paying the deceased’s debts, income tax, and funeral expenses (out of the deceased’s assets); and
  • Distributing the assets of the deceased’s estate according to the terms of the will.

The above is a broad outline of an executor’s responsibilities, and there will often be further things that an executor is responsible for (for example, arranging for the deceased’s home to be cleared out).

If the deceased owned certain assets, the executor will require a grant of probate in order to deal with those assets. As an example, if the deceased owned real estate in New South Wales, NSW Land Registry Services (the body responsible for maintaining the land titles system in NSW) require evidence that an executor is entitled to deal with the deceased person’s real estate and will normally only accept a grant of probate as evidence of this entitlement.

The role of an executor can be very demanding and involve a significant amount of time and effort, particularly if there are beneficiaries in a hurry for a distribution of estate assets.

In some circumstances an executor will be entitled to charge a commission for their “pains and troubles” in conducting and completing their executorial roles and duties.

When making a will, consideration should be given to who is the most appropriate person or persons to appoint as executor, bearing in mind the responsibilities that come with the role of executor.

If you have been appointed as executor under a will and are looking for some guidance and advice, Turner Freeman deal with many deceased estates and probate applications every year, and have a great deal of experience in the area. We would be more than pleased to have a no obligation discussion with you.