Does the Executor of a Deceased Estate Need Legal Advice

An executor is a person named in someone’s Will to act on behalf of their estate to carry out their last wishes and generally administer the estate. There will be detailed instructions in the Will of the deceased.  Sometimes this job is easy because the deceased had few assets and their Will was made clear. It is a simple matter of paying their debts, closing their bank accounts and distributing assets to their heirs.

However, if the deceased had a lot of assets such as shares or a business, things can be much more complicated. Unless the executor has business experience they may not have enough knowledge about what or how to administer the deceased estate. In this case they can refuse to take on the task or they can get advice from a qualified deceased estate lawyers. The fees for this will be covered by the estate and are usually quite affordable.

The duties of an executor are as follows. They must: –

  • Notify the beneficiaries.
  • Take care of the deceased’s business interests, if any.
  • Safeguard assets and income.
  • Invest money that is not needed immediately.
  • Collect any valuables.
  • Make sure everything is insured.
  • Value the estate including personal effects, cash, assets and debts.
  • Get clearance from the ATO and make tax returns.
  • Sell off assets to pay debts and liabilities.
  • Establish trusts.
  • Prepare statements and distribute to the beneficiaries as per the Will if that is possible after the debts are paid.
  • In some cases it is necessary to apply for a grant of probate in order to finalise the estate.

The executor is also responsible for ensuring that all the last wishes of the deceased for the funeral arrangements are carried out.  They may have wanted to donate their organs; this too, is the responsibility of the executor.  It is actually essential for the executor to know ahead of time since  organs must be harvested within a small window of time after death.

If there are no funds for the funeral, the family who authorised the arrangements have to meet the cost. If they can’t or won’t, the Bereavement Assistance Programme may be able to help.

Executors are not normally paid for all the work they do, However, if they are also a beneficiary, which is often the case, they will get their inheritance, if there is enough left after paying debts. If you don’t want to act as executor even though you’ve been nominated as one, you can refuse the task and apply to the court to appoint someone else if no one else was named in the Will. Having once refused, you cannot then change your mind and take on the role.