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26 May 2014

What is an executor and what do they do?

An executor is a person appointed in someone’s Will to manage their affairs and carry out their wishes after they die.

An executor is a person appointed in someone’s Will to manage their affairs and carry out their wishes after they die.

An executor’s duties include:

  1. arranging the funeral;
  2. locating the Will and identifying all of the beneficiaries;
  3. applying to the court for a grant of probate, if that is necessary;
  4. collecting all of the estate assets and paying any debts;
  5. arranging for tax returns to be prepared and lodged;
  6. distributing the estate in accordance with the Will;
  7. bringing and defending any legal proceedings on behalf of the estate; and
  8. managing the inheritance of any beneficiaries who are under 18, if they are appointed to do so.

The role of executor is very important and therefore it is important to choose the right person or people.

You should choose someone who is trustworthy, reliable and organised. You should also discuss your choice with the person you would like to appoint beforehand, to make sure they are willing to take on the role, as it can be time consuming and demanding.

You should also consider whether there is any likelihood of conflict or disputes arising in relation to your estate after you die. If a dispute does arise, your executor will play a very important role in managing and dealing with that, including representing your estate in court proceedings if that becomes necessary. Particularly, you should avoid appointing an executor who you think might challenge your Will, as this will place them in a position of conflict.

Up to four people can act jointly as your executor. If you appoint more than four people in your Will, only the first four named people will be the executors. Your executor can be any person who is over 18. Many people choose family members or friends.

You can also appoint a professional person to be your executor, such as a lawyer or accountant. People often choose this option where they have no trusted family member or friend who they can appoint, their estate is very complex or there is a high likelihood of a dispute after they die.

If you die without a Will or the executors nominated in your Will cannot or do not wish to carry out the role, other people who are interested in the administration of the estate can apply to the court for ‘letters of administration’. If there is no other suitable person to appoint, the court will appoint the Public Trustee of Queensland. The person who is appointed is then your ‘administrator’.

For advice in relation to your Will or carrying out the role of executor, contact a member of our Wills and Estates team.

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This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please let us know.

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