When a person creates a Will, they appoint an executor to administer their estate upon their death. The executor is responsible for ensuring that all outstanding debts and taxes are paid and that the remaining assets are distributed according to the deceased’s final wishes as set out in their Will.
This is a position of great trust and must be carried out with care and integrity. If you have been named as an executor to a Will, it is important to remember that you must act in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries at all times.
If a conflict arises between beneficiaries, you cannot take sides but should instead try to mediate a resolution. The best way to avoid or minimise conflict is to maintain clear and regular communication with all beneficiaries about what is happening with the estate.
Further, where you are one of a number of executors, you must consult with the other executors and agree on a proposed course of action before taking any steps to administer the estate.
As an executor you must make sure that all liabilities of the estate are satisfied, and that the remaining assets of the estate are properly managed and protected until they can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
Your duties as an executor may include:
- protecting and auditing the deceased’s assets;
- obtaining valuations for those assets;
- confirming that all assets are appropriately insured;
- applying to the Supreme Court for a grant of probate (if necessary);
- finding and notifying the beneficiaries of their entitlements under the Will;
- transferring or selling assets (where appropriate)
- where assets are not able to be transferred or sold, maintaining those assets;
- determining all debts and liabilities of the deceased;
- paying any debts of the deceased (including debts incurred during the course of the administration of the estate);
- defending the Will of the deceased where litigation is commenced against the estate;
- preparing tax returns and obtaining income tax clearances;
- maintaining a statement of assets and liabilities to be provided to beneficiaries upon request and at the conclusion of the administration of the estate; and
- distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will, only once satisfied that there is no likelihood of a claim being made for a share of the estate.
You may be surprised to learn that if there is an error in administering the estate, whether it is deliberate or accidental, you may be held personally responsible for any financial losses to the estate.
It is therefore vitally important to ensure that you properly perform all of your duties as an executor. If you would like assistance with the administration of an estate, please do not hesitate to contact our office on (07) 4963 2000 or via our online contact form.