An executor is a person or entity appointed to carry out the instructions in a deceased Will and estate plan. The term executor of estate and executor of will are used interchangeably to describe the person held liable to take care of the business interests, real estate, debts and remaining cash after death. These executor duties kick in after the grant of probate, and the executor duties extend across a number of financial and legal responsibilities- so it's important to choose wisely.
The executor of will duties include managing the remaining funds in the estate- through ensuring debts are paid, income tax liabilities covered and property, personal effects and other assets are distributed to the person named in the deceased's will.
The executor has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the deceased and their beneficiaries, and they are personally liable for the estate being administered in a timely, efficient, and legally compliant manner. In administering the estate, the executor is also responsible for mediating any family disputes between beneficiaries.
Given that the executor is also required to navigate the supreme court for obtaining the death certificate and grant of probate- some financial and legal knowledge may be beneficial. If further legal action is required to deal with property issues or liabilities, this expertise can help the executor navigate the court processes, and probate.
A personal executor is typically someone close to the deceased, such as a family member or close friend. They are appointed to carry out the instructions in the deceased's Will, pay liabilities and administer the estate in a timely manner.
Administering the estate includes managing and distributing the deceased's assets, debts, business and property. In addition, the personal executor will also carry out any funeral arrangement wishes in the Will and ensure end-of-life wishes expenses are paid for. They might also need to communicate with financial institutions, government agencies, and other parties to ensure that the estate is administered smoothly. And, before doing any of this, they'll need to apply and obtain a grant of probate.
Appointing a personal executor avoids the need to jump through these extra legal formalities of applying for letters of administration. As the executor of will is only authorised to manage and distribute the estate after the letter of administration is granted, appointing an executor in advance is more efficient.
With all of this in mind, being appointed executor of a will is a lot of responsibility- with and a lot of legal and financial lingo to navigate. For this reason, not every close friend or family member might be suitable for the role.
Emotional stress: a personal executor might make the administration of an estate a bit too close to home, where beneficiary or family disputes might contribute to emotional stress for the executor.
Conflict of interest: This potential for emotional stress can be especially true if the person appointed as executor is also identified as a beneficiary of the estate. But pressingly, it could also create issues of conflict of interest. This could exacerbate family disputes and concerns over the administration of the estate, and draw out the probate process.
Lack legal expertise & knowledge: personal executors may also lack experience and ability to navigate the court, and communicate with financial institutions on complex estate matters. Any mistakes or confusions could delay the administration of the estate.
Changing circumstances: a personal executor has a job, a life and other responsibilities to navigate. Meaning that when the time comes, they might not have capacity or willingness to fulfil the executor duties. This can create further delays in probate.
Familiarity with deceased wishes: a personal executor is likely to be more in tune with the deceased wishes than a professional. In this way, they can make funeral arrangements more personal, and ensure the deceased's assets are distributed in line with their wishes.
Personal investment: when this person is a close friend or family member, this increases the chance they will be personally invested in administrating your estate effectively. This can provide immense peace of mind that your estate will be looked after by someone you trust after you die.
Flexibility: with this in mind, personal executors can be more flexible than a professional- and be able to administer the estate around non-working hours. This can be useful if complications arise
Cost: finally, personal executors are significantly cheaper. Even if included as a beneficiary as a thankyou, choosing a friend or family member to administer the estate can generate significant cash savings in comparison to seeking expert legal advice.
Unlike appointing a person to this role based on your personal relationship, a professional executor is typically a person or entity with expertise in estate planning and administration. This could be a lawyer, accountant, or trust company.
Expertise and specific knowledge: a professional executor will have the experience to manage complex financial and legal matters in an efficient manner
Impartial: because they won't be a beneficiary or personal relation, a professional executor can experience less conflict of interest or family disputes tension.
Smoother & faster estate administration: combined, expert knowledge and an impartial stance can make the management of the deceased assets- including property, investment portfolios, personal items and money- a lot smoother.
Cost: whilst providing more expert assistance, executor fees make appointing a professional executor more expensive than those of a personal executor. Executor costs can mount if complexities arise, and for some families this can place an additional strain on finances at an already expensive time with funeral costs.
Lack of personal connection: whilst it can sometimes have its advantages to have an impartial estate administrator, it can also be a drawback where the deceased's personal, funeral or estate wishes are more complex or less defined. This can risk a lack of personal touch in your end of life affairs.
Whether you choose a personal or professional executor, the appointed person will be responsible for administrating your estate. In practice, your executor ensures that your wishes are carried through and your remaining assets go to the right people, at the right time.
The competency, effort or skills of your executor can make or break your estate administration- with implications for your family members via the length of probate, delays in asset distribution and management of your assets.
It's a choice you want to get right. So how do you choose an executor of your estate? And what factors should you consider in this choice?
We cover some guidelines on choosing an executor below:
Trustworthiness, honesty and integrity
Financial literacy to manage investments & communicate with financial institutions, supreme court and government tax officials
Time availability and willingness to fulfil duties
Communication skills to effectively liaise with beneficiaries & ease family disputes
Sound mind to make fair decisions in the best interests of the estate
Once you're set on either option, it's important to extend the above criteria to your choice of either personal or professional executor to administer your estate. Depending on your reasons and requirements which guide your decision of either option, there are different qualities you should look for in a lawyer or trust company, relative to a friend or relative to fulfil this role.
Factors to look for in a professional executor:
Experience in estate management and administration
Expert knowledge of legal and financial matters
Objectivity and impartiality in decision-making
Strong communication and organisational skills
Trustworthiness with positive reviews
Transparency in fees and charges
Factors to look for in a personal executor:
Trustworthiness and honesty
Strong communication, organisation and time keeping skills
Familiarity with your wishes and values
Willingness & time ability to serve as the executor
An executor of estate is the person who will administer a deceased person's estate. The choice of who to appoint affects how effectively assets are managed and distributed, and can have consequences for the length of probate, as well as distribution delays.
Depending on your relationship with close family and friends, the complexity of your estate and budget an appointed executor can be a personal or professional relation.
Regardless, this choice should be guided by the personal factors of the executor- such as trustworthiness, organisation, communication and time feasibility. Ability to navigate complex legal proceedings and financial administration can also guide this decision.
Safewill provides the easiest and most affordable platform to write your will and appoint your executor, today. We offer expert legal support at each step of the way and make it easier than ever to get you that all important, and legally binding, Will and last testament document.
What's more, we even remove the barriers to making important updates to your will or appointed executor. Our flexible service works around your schedule from the offset, includes free updates within the first year and a subscription option for continued updates to your legal document. To discuss your options further, get in touch with one of our Will experts on 1800 103 310 , or via live chat now.