No, an executor is not a person who chops off heads! An executor is the person appointed to “execute” a will.
When someone dies, an executor is designated by the will to administer the estate. Put simply, an executor’s role involves making sure the deceased person’s debts are paid and that their assets and possessions go where the deceased wanted them to.
Usually, people name just one or two executors in their will, but technically they can name as many executors as they like. To make sure the whole process runs smoothly, many people choose to name a solicitor as one of the executors. The solicitor may charge a fee for their expertise in administering estates.
If someone has named you sole executor, it is usually still a good idea to consult a solicitor, just to make sure you get it right. Administering an estate is not always straightforward and, as executor, you can be held liable if you get it wrong.
Will you be paid for being an executor?
Generally, you will only be paid for your time spent as an executor if the will specifically says you should be. That said, you have the right to apply to the Supreme Court of NSW for commission regardless of what the will says. The court usually will not award you any payment if you’re also a beneficiary under the will.
If you do not want to be an executor, you can get out of it by signing a formal “renunciation” and filing it in the Supreme Court. You should do this as soon as you can, because your renunciation may not be effective if you have completed even some of the executor’s duties. A solicitor can help you do this.
What are an executor’s responsibilities?
The responsibilities of an executor include:
- Making an inventory of property, which is a list of anything the deceased owned or was entitled to and may include property, cars, money, bank accounts, possessions, shares, etc.
- Applying for probate, which is a court order confirming the validity of the will
- Selling the deceased’s assets, as well as organising with the banks and companies in which the deceased had money to release any funds
- Taking care of any debts, taxes or expenses, including funeral and administration of the estate
- Preparing a distribution report, detailing exactly what assets the deceased owned, how much money you received from each asset you sold, and what debts you paid
- Distributing the assets to the named beneficiaries
- Publishing a notice requiring anybody with a claim against the estate to notify you within a specified period
What if the estate is small?
If the estate is very small (i.e. less than $50,000.00), banks and building societies have rules allowing access to the deceased’s funds without a grant of probate, and enquiries should be made as to what level the institution requires probate for. For small estates, no fees are required for application of probate if it is necessary.
What if there is no will?
There will be no executor, but a relative of the deceased also entitled to any of the estate may apply to the Probate Registry for a letter of administration to become personal representative of the deceased (similar to an executor).
How can Martin Bullock Lawyers help you?
Here at MBL, we have solicitors with years of experience working in estate law who can assist you if you have been named executor of an estate.
Your solicitor can guide you through every stage of your journey as executor, including:
- Informing you of your rights and responsibilities
- Helping you apply for probate and complete the probate forms
- Helping you identify and collect the deceased’s assets
- Advising you on any potential tax implications
- Advising you on the right order to pay debts and distribute assets
- Assisting you to resolve any claims against the estate
- Helping you draw up a statement of assets and distribution report.
If you have been named as executor of an estate, or have any other wills and estates issues, contact Greg Martin or Jacqueline Wainwright on 02 9687 9322.