The choice of your Executor is a very important one. This is the
person (or persons) you appoint in your Will to administer your
estate when you pass.
Being an Executor isn't easy and if you're wondering how
complicated it can get, the answer is "How long is a piece of
string?" Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all answer to
this question - how complicated the role gets can vary widely. This
is usually dependant on whether there are any problems with the
Will itself (eg, interpretation), the size and nature of your
assets, whether there are any issues with beneficiaries (eg,
tensions, disabilities, bankruptcy issues) or if a claim is made on
the estate for further provision.
Also, if something goes wrong, an Executor could potentially be
personally liable for losses to beneficiaries and creditors (eg,
not paying debts and taxes, selling assets for less than their real
The main functions of an Executor are:
to apply for Probate (an order of the Supreme Court confirming
your Executor's appointment and that your Will is the most
recent one and valid);
to collect your assets. If assets need to be sold, an Executor
will need to decide how they should be sold and for what price and
on what conditions?
to pay your debts and deal with outstanding matters such as
income tax; to distribute the balance of the estate to your
beneficiaries in accordance with the Will.
Depending on your individual circumstances, numerous
considerations might bear upon your decision as to who to appoint.
It's important that people understand their options. Some
things you might want to consider are:
Should you have one Executor or more than one?
Should you appoint one or more of your beneficiaries as
Executor? What about a sibling and/or friend? Beneficiaries are
usually a good choice as they have the impetus to move things along
but be aware of family politics and potential tensions.
Should you appoint a professional Executor such as a trustee
company or a professional advisor (eg, your lawyer or accountant)?
The advantages are impartiality and professionalism but you need to
bear in mind that this comes at a cost.
Will your chosen Executor have the time to deal with your
estate? Consider if he or she has other commitments as the role can
sometimes become a full time job (depending on the complexity of
the estate and personalities involved).
Is your Executor likely to be able to deal with the stress of
the responsibility? You don't want to inadvertently burden a
friend or loved one.
Whoever you choose, make sure that you consult your intended
Executor before having your Will drawn up. He or she needs to
understand what is expected of them and make a considered decision
about whether to take on the responsibility.
Some people only discover they have been appointed after the
Will maker has passed, making it awkward for the Executor to refuse
the potentially onerous role. An Executor can decide following your
death that they don't wish to accept the role however the
window is tight – they can't have actually started taking
on any of the position's duties. If this happens, you will have
no control over who administers your estate.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The person named as an executor in the deceased's will has the right to arrange for the burial of the deceased's body.
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