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.
When appointing an executor, you have the choice of appointing a family member or friend, or a professional executor. There are benefits and drawbacks to each option. 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. Another option is picking an impartial third party (like Safewill).
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.
An Executor of a Will in Australia can be anyone over the age of 18. Generally it is either someone close to the Will maker such as their partner, family member or friend, or a professional executor who charges a fee to administer the estate. Increasingly professional executors are being appointed to reduce the burden on family members, who are already dealing with the emotional stress of losing a loved one.
There is nothing precluding a beneficiary named in the Will to also be named as the Executor, and it is possible to have more than one Executor.
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 minimal amount 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. It may often involve visits to court, liquidation of estate assets, settling of debts, and very good record keeping to document that each beneficiary has received their legal entitlements.
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. They will also need a skillset that can cover a large range of activities - from searching for and locating assets, to protecting the estate, and documenting all assets and distributions.
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, or you may wish to save your loved ones that burden. In an instance like this, it may make more sense to appoint a professional executor to manage the affairs of your estate.
Traditionally this has been an expensive and cumbersome option, as lawyers or professional service providers have charged prohibitive fees for their services that end up leaving a bad taste in the mouth of beneficiaires.
Safewill has launched a professional executor service that is affordable, caring & empathetic, and provides the same level of service to your family that you have come to expect from us.
You can appoint Safewill estates within your Will if you want your affairs handled affordably and reliably.
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.
On top of this, if you wanted to save your family the stress and complexity of administering your estate, you can appoint Safewill Estates as your executor and rest easy knowing that once you’re gone, your affairs will be managed and your loved ones taken care of.
You can get started on making your bespoke Safewill Will with just a few clicks.