Whether you’re an executor yourself or you’re advising an executor or estate, it’s valuable to understand the roles and responsibilities of this somewhat unique position.
At it’s simplest: An executor is responsible for administering a deceased estate according to the terms of the Will and the legal requirements of the Succession Act 1981 (Qld).
What are an Executor’s duties?
After locating the Will, and usually undertaken in co-operation with a wills and estate lawyer, your duties as an executor may include:
- taking care of funeral arrangements
- contacting Centerlink, health care funds and other asset holders
- applying for Probate from the Supreme Court of Queensland
- locating and notifying beneficiaries
- checking and protecting assets, collecting valuables and income
- transferring, maintaining or selling assets and confirming insurance of assets
- making maintenance distributions to dependents prior to the completion of the estate
- determining debts and liabilities and arranging for payment of the same once funds are available in the estate
- general matters such as cancelling phone/internet account, turning off electricity etc
- consulting professionals such as a lawyers, accountants and financial advisors
- preparing tax returns and getting income tax clearances
- preparing financial statements and distributing the estate including specific legacies
- defending the estate against a claim by a disappointed beneficiary
There may also be additional duties listed in the Will.
Legal obligations and liability
An executor also acts as trustee of the estate in holding assets on trust for the beneficiaries, for example where beneficiaries are minors or are otherwise unable to hold their entitlements under the Will. A trustee manages money, investments, or assets on a continuing basis for the benefit of certain beneficiaries according to the wishes of the deceased.
If there is an error in administering the estate, whether it’s deliberate or an accident, you (as executor) may be liable. For example, there have been cases where assets were damaged by fire or theft. The executor had not paid the insurance premiums on time, even though there was money in the estate to cover the bill. The executor may be personally liable for the asset in such cases.
If you do not want to be an executor
You can renounce the duty if you are appointed as an executor. If an alternate executor is appointed by the Will then they may choose to take on the task of the administration alternatively you can ask the Public Trustee of Queensland to administer the estate instead.
If you do accept the job, first be sure that you want to administer the estate. Once you start the process, it’s not always easy to stop part way through the process. It can also add to the costs of administering the estate.
If you are appointed an executor of an estate we recommend that you seek legal advice to ensure that you are fulfilling the legal requirements of the role.
Please contact our Wills, Estates, Planning + Structuring team for more information or to address any questions you may have.