If you’ve been named as an executor of a will, you may be wondering what you need to do to fulfil your role. We are here to help with the huge responsibility that is acting as an executor, or naming a suitable alternative administrator.

Executors of wills and estates

Being named as an executor of a will, is a much larger responsibility than many people realise. It is up to you to ensure that funeral arrangements for the deceased are made and paid for, that you apply to the Supreme Court for a grant of Probate (in order to gain permission to administer the estate), collect all assets, pay any outstanding debts and taxes of the deceased and ensure that beneficiaries of the will receive their benefits.

If you need help with fulfilling your role as an executor, our lawyers can help.

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What is an executor?

An executor is the person who is responsible for carrying out the wishes of a person after they die. An executor must be at least 18 years of age or older to be appointed as such. Responsibilities which normally fall to the executor usually include:
 

  • Applying for the death certificate
     

  • Making funeral arrangements (the deceased’s wishes may or may not be laid out in the will but the executor does not necessarily have to fulfil these wishes)
     

  • Locating and identifying all the assets of the deceased
     

  • Collecting all assets of the deceased
     

  • Paying the deceased’s debts and outstanding taxes
     

  • Distributing assets to the beneficiaries as laid out in the will

Some common questions about being an executor:

Will I need to make funeral arrangements?

If the deceased has no next of kin or if it is laid out in the will that the executor is to arrange the funeral, funeral arrangements must be paid for by the executor, who is then normally entitled to receive reimbursement from the estate of the deceased.
If the deceased has funeral cover in place with their insurance agency, the funeral will normally be partly or wholly covered by their funeral bonds, so no money from the deceased’s estate may need to go towards the funeral cover.

What is the difference between executor and administrator?

An executor is the person who is specifically named in a will to carry out the deceased’s wishes and manage the estate.
An administrator is the term given to a person who has been named to manage the estate by the Succession Act 2006 in cases where an executor has renounced their appointment as executor and not named an alternative appointment, or where a person has died without a will.
Both an executor and an administrator both carry out essentially the same duties and responsibilities.

What if I cannot or do not wish to act as executor of a will?

If you do not wish to act as the executor of the will or are unable to for whatever reason, then you can formally renounce the appointment and appoint another person (normally a close relative or friend that you trust), a lawyer, or the NSW Trustee and Guardian to be the executor of the will.
This is a common option for many people, as it relieves a lot of the responsibility and stress involved with being an executor. If no alternative appointment is made, NSW law lays out in the Succession Act 2006 who will need to assume this responsibility.