Law Report - The Role of an Executor in a Will

When someone makes a Will they nominate an executor. They may nominate one person or a number of people to act together. You may have been told by a relative or close friend that you have been nominated as an executor in their Will but you may not be sure what it entails.

The role of an executor is to administer the estate of a deceased person in accordance with their Will. An executor must comply with various laws and rules that govern the administration of deceased estates and trusts.

The responsibilities of an executor may include locating the original Will, making funeral arrangements, notifying relevant authorities, making a list of assets and debts, making sure all property is insured, applying to the Supreme Court for a grant of Probate, securing assets, paying debts, lodging tax returns for the deceased and their estate, establishing any trusts created in the Will and distributing the estate in accordance with the Will. This is a guide only and not an exhaustive list, the steps involved will vary depending on the nature of the estate.

A key part of the administration of an estate is to obtain a grant of Probate; this is an order from the Supreme Court of NSW that confirms a Will is valid and that any executors have the right to administer the estate.

The time taken to administer an estate will depend on the complexity of the estate, the minimum time to finalise an estate is 6 months from the date of death and most estates are usually finalised within one year.

However if the Will establishes a trust then the person nominated as executor will often have to take on the role of trustee. A Will may create a trust if the deceased gifts all or part of their estate to a beneficiary who is a minor such as a child or grandchild. In these circumstances the role of trustee may involve preserving and managing estate assets until the beneficiary reaches their majority. The age that a beneficiary reaches their majority depends on the terms of the Will, for example the will maker may have specified the age of majority as 18 or 25 years.

If you are nominated as executor you can engage a solicitor to guide you through your role and this is usually paid for by the deceased’s estate. A solicitor can assist by setting out your rights and responsibilities, helping you to apply for probate and assisting you with the administration of the estate to ensure it is carried out in the correct way. 

If you have been nominated as an executor in someone's will and require assistance, our team can help and invite you to make contact.