Q. My  parents have asked me to be the executor of their wills.  I am happy to do so but want to know what I am up for. What does an Executor do and what do I need to be aware of? 

A. An executor administers the estate of a deceased and .  The executor, in effect winds up the deceased’s personal affairs.

The executor is required to execute the instructions of the deceased in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are those people who share in the deceased’s estate, and they are usually named in the will. If no will exists, the beneficiaries are usually the deceased person’s next of kin.

The deceased’s estate includes the property and assets belonging to the deceased person.  There are some exceptions such as assets owned by the deceased jointly with another person as joint tenants.  Another exception is the deceased’s Superannuation unless the estate is the nominated beneficiary.

Tasks usually performed by an executor include:

  • locating the will
  • making funeral arrangements
  • obtaining a death certificate
  • informing beneficiaries of their entitlements
  • informing banks, insurance companies, investment managers, Superannuation Funds, and share registries
  • informing government bodies, such as the ATO and Centrelink
  • protecting and locating assets and having their value assessed
  • lodging tax returns on behalf of the deceased person and the deceased’s estate
  • applying for Probate or Letters of Administration
  • transferring assets and paying any applicable duties
  • distributing the residuary of the estate to beneficiaries.

The executor holds the deceased’s estate in trust, and is the trustee for the deceased’s estate.   As trustee you are responsible to ensure that all expenses, debts and taxes of the deceased and the estate are paid.

Probate is an application made by the executor named in the last Will of the deceased. Letters of Administration is an application made where there is no Will.  The Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is the formal legal recognition from the Supreme Court that the executor has the authority to administer the estate and transfer ownership of the deceased’s assets in accordance with the will. Financial institutions may not require a formal Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration depending on the quantity of the assets they are responsible for. If the assets are below their self-determined caps, a Certified Copy of the will and full Death Certificate will usually suffice to transfer assets.

If you are uncertain of the steps to be taken, a solicitor will be able to guide you in the process of acting as an executor. You would be strongly advised to seek legal advice at the time in administering your parents estate.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewHeavenFP. This article was originally published in The Australian