Being An Executor – Compliment Or Sentence?

By John Godfrey | More Articles by John Godfrey


Being asked to be an Executor is both a compliment and a sentence that may take some time to work through. And all because you are trusted.

You can decline to accept the position of Executor following the testator’s death by getting a court’s approval that an acceptable replacement has been found. You must do this early in the process. Normally, you will only be paid for your time spent as an Executor if disclosed in the will, but you have the right to apply to the courts for commission anyway. If you are also a beneficiary a court usually will not award you any payment.

Your first step is to make a list of everything the deceased owned as well as any payments or assets they were entitled to. This list is known as an inventory of property Before applying for probate the intention to do so is advertised on the relevant Court’s website. Two weeks later application can be made by lodging the death certificate, the inventory of property, an executor’s affidavit and the original will. On the granting of probate, the Executor has the authority to fulfil the deceased’s legal and financial wishes and paying outstanding expenses and debts. This is done by opening a bank account in the name of the estate or use a solicitor’s trust account and deposit the proceeds of bank accounts and the sale of any of assets.

If the Will nominates specific household assets to be given to specific beneficiaries, then that can now take place. Where the Will is silent on the disposal of non-valuable personal and household assets the process is the Executor’s decision. This would clear the home of contents so that the property can be sold. You should act in this process as if it were your own. Indeed, the property title must be transferred to your name before it can be sold as it no longer resides with the deceased. The same is for the financial assets which also now are held in your name for the Estate.

After 6 months have passed since death the Executor can distribute money and possessions according to the Will. The object is to convert all assets to cash unless it is more appropriate for assets to be given in kind. This can sometimes be a better way to manage the tax liability of the Estate and the beneficiaries. Keeping very good financial records is a must. The Estate submits a tax return each year that it continues and pay tax accordingly. The Executor prepares a distribution report detailing assets owned, value from the sale of each asset and debts paid. A copy of this report is given to each beneficiary when they are paid their share of the estate. They have the right to question your actions.

The message here is that if you are appointed an Executor you are well-advised to go through the Will at that time to make sure its words are clear and not confusing. Many estates have loss significant value because of the cost of unclear wording. It can be a complicated exercise and legal help is usually a good idea unless the estate is small, and the Executor is the surviving spouse.

John Godfrey

About John Godfrey

John Godfrey has over 50 years of financial services experience. This has involved banking, accounting, stock broking, investment banking, lending, fund raising, financial advice, trusteeship, and adviser training.

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