Not only does the Executor of a Will distribute an Estate's assets and property, they are also responsible for making sure the wishes of the Will maker are respected and carried out. So, what qualities does an Executor need to have and who should you choose to do this essential job?
An Executor is a person appointed by a Will maker to carry out their wishes after they pass away. The Executor is the “personal representative” of the Will maker and has a legal duty to do what the Will directs, and to act in the best interest of the Beneficiaries.
The duties of an Executor can include a range of tasks from arranging a funeral and applying for Probate to dealing with the Estate’s assets and liabilities.
The role involves paperwork and deadlines, and requires someone with a willingness to get on top of potentially tricky legal and financial issues. On top of all of that, if disagreements arise, your Executor may also have to act as a negotiator and peace maker.
It’s important to remember that if they are a family member or friend, an Executor will also be carrying out their role while coming to terms with the loss of someone they love and care about.
But choosing an Executor for your Estate doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. From having the time to commit to all the tasks required, to being able to manage issues among Beneficiaries, we explain the key things to look for in a potential Executor.
Who can be an Executor of a Will in Australia?
An Executor of a Will in Australia can be anyone over the age of 18, but is usually someone close to the Will maker such as their partner, an adult child, a close relative, a good friend or a business partner.
In many cases an Executor will also be a named Beneficiary in the Will, and it is possible to have more than one Executor.
Who should you choose as the Executor of your Will?
The person you appoint as Executor must above all understand both the big picture and the nitty gritty of your Estate plan. They should be someone you can trust to act independently of their own interests, especially if they’re also a Beneficiary of the Will.
Four key things you should look for in an Executor:
1. An Executor needs to have the time to do their job properly
Small or simple Estates containing a minimum of property and a straightforward distribution of assets can be settled relatively quickly.
Larger and more complicated Estates need an Executor who can commit time to making a detailed plan of action and carrying it out.
2. An Executor should be someone who won’t be overwhelmed by their responsibilities
An Executor should ideally be a good multi-tasker who can juggle a variety of tasks in an organised way and not collapse under the weight of their duties. They will need to understand how to prioritise the most pressing issues and transactions.
3. An Executor should have good diplomatic and communication skills
A good Executor is someone who’s able to manage expectations and calm ruffled feathers. They need to keep all parties in the loop and proactively solve problems before they get out of control.
Regularly communicating progress to Beneficiaries and all the other interested parties to a Will is also an important part of an Executor’s job.
4. An Executor should be committed for the long haul
With a well planned Will as a guide, the majority of Estates can be settled quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of stress.
Simplicity isn’t always a given when it comes to dividing Estates, however, and your Executor needs to remain committed to their job even when complications arise and the Probate process drags on.
When to choose a professional Executor
Sometimes it may be impossible to find a skilled or independent person to act as your Executor. Your Estate could be complicated and you’re worried that the process of administering it might not go smoothly. Or it may be hard to choose a close family member without offending or putting others offside. On top of these issues, Executors can be held liable if things go wrong.
If any of these things are a worry for you, it could be wise to consider appointing an independent professional Executor like a lawyer or financial adviser to take on the role.
The rights of an Executor
An Executor appointed by a Will has no legal duty to take up that role. If the role is declined by the person you appoint - and there is no additional Executor named in the Will - they can apply to have an administrator appointed by the court.
An Executor also has the right to apply for a commission to compensate them for the time and effort that goes into discharging their duties. This is usually calculated as a percentage of the Estate and it needs to be formally approved by the Beneficiaries or the court.
A Safewill Will makes it easy for your Executor
Safewill makes it easy to nominate your Executor - you can choose up to two co-executors and two backup executors to act in the role. You can even notify your Executors that your Will is stored with Safewill, providing an added measure of security that your document can be accessed by those who need it, when they need it.
You can get started on making your bespoke Safewill Will with just a few clicks.