Appointing your executor is one of the most important decisions to make when you're writing your Will. As the person who will enforce your final wishes, manage your bank accounts and remaining assets once you are gone- you should have complete confidence they will act in your best interests. Choosing a professional executor can help give peace of mind that your estate assets will be handled correctly.
While most people choose to appoint their next of kin as their executor, you can decide to engage a professional instead. Lawyers, accountants or a Public Trustee can step in and conduct the same duties without the risk of a conflict of interest.
There are wide-ranging benefits for using a professional to administer your Will. Most estate planning lawyers have extensive experience handling deceased's estate and being personally liable for these responsibilities.
This can make things like administering business interests, managing all the assets and dealing with legal proceedings a lot smoother, if family members and friends simply don't have the same experience with these processes. Especially if the estate includes more complicated assets, then a professional executor can distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries, pay debts and liabilities and deal with legal action in reasonable time.
As professional executors understand the administrative hurdles and court processes which need to be followed, it can also make obtaining a grant of probate much easier.
The main difference between a personal and professional executor is the cost. A professional executor is someone you employ to administer your estate while a personal executor, like a spouse or other family member, will not be paid for their services or making funeral arrangements unless it is stipulated in the will.
The reason someone chooses to use a personal executor is because they usually have some knowledge of the person's estate and financial circumstances, and they can be trusted not to abuse their responsibilities when it comes to administering the estate to all the beneficiaries.
While using a professional executor attracts additional costs, some may consider the benefits outweigh this minor disadvantage. Firstly, since a professional executor does not have a vested interest in the Will they are able to act impartially when it comes to administer the estate, and deal with distributing the deceased person's property and other assets.
Executors' duties can raise contentions, depending on how assets are assigned to beneficiaries. For this reason, using a family member could result in conflict if there are disputes over the way an inheritance has been carved up.
The second advantage of using a professional is their knowledge of the administrative and legal process. Administering an estate involves dealing with multiple government agencies, the Australian tax office, financial institutions, and service providers- meaning things can get confusing and time consuming for someone without experience.
Especially if the deceased person's estate is more complex or they have more liabilities, estate administration can quickly become overwhelming. A lack of experience can create delays in the grant of probate, and need to distribute assets, property and personal effects to beneficiaries within reasonable time.
Estate planning lawyers and other professional executor services understand what the process involves and what paperwork is required to administer an estate.
Thirdly, a professional understands the responsibility that the role involves, and the fact that they are held liable if they neglect their duties to act as executor. If an executor has to be removed by the Supreme Court, it can be a time consuming process and cause further delays for the administration of the estate.
Someone who is being paid for their services is unlikely to cause unnecessary delays and further stress on a grieving family. And this can help mediate funeral expenses, tax returns and other grant of probate requirements.
Most people may shy away from choosing a professional executor because of the fees they charge for their services. But the cost involved in using a professional may not be worth the stress of leaving such a big responsibility with someone ill equipped to handle it.
In fact, family members or close friends may even need to seek legal advice to apply for probate and deal with more complicated elements of the deceased estate anyway.
When deciding who you want to be responsible for your estate administration, there are a number of important considerations:
How many executors do you want?
Do you want to nominate a personal AND a professional?
Do you want to use a lawyer, accountant, public trustee or legal service ?
Do you want to engage a professional solely for probate?
While most people assume using a professional executor may be cost-prohibitive, the rise of online-based legal platforms like Safewill has made it more accessible than ever.
Our lawyers can provide clear instructions for what you need to do as executor, and take the burden of the grant of probate application out of your hands. Safewill does not take a cut of the estate in the same way most lawyers and public trustees do, but only charges a one-off fee for the service.
This ensures that your debts are paid, your property managed and your assets distributed according to each person named in your Will. Read more about our probate services here.
Yes. Most people choose to appoint more than one executor in case one is unable to act or if they die or become incapacitated before they can carry out their duties. You can choose to appoint a personal and a professional executor to act jointly on significant matters, while allowing them to divide responsibilities on less important issues.
A professional executor could be given the responsibility for handling the deceased person's administrative and legal matters, while the personal executor could manage any pets, children or personal property of the deceased during probate.
No. An executor is prohibited from changing the Will in any form. This includes signing the Will, removing beneficiaries, or assigning themselves as a beneficiary. If they abuse their duties or neglect to carry out their responsibilities a beneficiary can contact the Supreme Court to have the executor revoked or replaced.
No. An executor must carry out all instructions set out in the Will- including the person named as beneficiary for specific money or income streams. The only reason an executor can legally withhold someone's inheritance is if the estate is insolvent.
If in this case, where the debts and other liabilities outweigh the total assets at the time the deceased passed away, the funds will not be distributed to the beneficiaries. In any other situation, the executor must pay out what is owed to the recipients.
Safewill offers affordable professional executor services, to distribute and manage your estate with expertise. We pay debts, distribute money and help support each person in your Will as a beneficiary.
In doing so, we also reduce the burden on your family to take on estates administration, and provide peace of mind to you as the Will maker- that your wishes will be seen through after your death.
Call one of our dedicated funeral planners for a one-to-one chat on how we can support you. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1300 730 639, or via live chat now
Disclaimer: The information contained in this guide is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice but as a basic guide to the application process. If you have concerns or queries you should consult a legal professional about your specific circumstances.