Finding out that you have been named as the executor of someone’s Will can be daunting and overwhelming. As an executor, you are responsible for paying outstanding debts, finalising financial matters and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will maker’s wishes.
So what tips can we give you to make your role easier?
- Know where the Will is located
Often people are aware that they have been named as the executor to someone’s Will, but they are not always aware of the location of the Will. Whilst we always recommend safe and secure storage of your Will, it is important that the executor is able to locate and access the Will when the time comes. An example includes the ability to access a locked safe where the Will is stored.
- Obtain a copy of the death certificate
You will be required to produce a death certificate on many occasions throughout the process, including to the bank to freeze accounts or seek funds for the funeral or when making an application to the Supreme Court for Probate. It is best to obtain a death certificate and have certified copies made by an authorised person as soon as possible.
- Check the mail
In some circumstances you will know a lot about the financial circumstances of the deceased, and in other circumstances you may know very limited information. A good way to establish what assets and liabilities a person may have is to check their mail regularly.
- Cancel all unnecessary costs
In order to preserve the estate it is best to act promptly to cancel all regular memberships. This may include paper delivery, internet connection, pay TV and phone lines.
- Set up an estate bank account
As an executor it is not appropriate to be receiving funds into your personal bank account. Set up an estate bank account to ensure that you do not run into issues down the track from mixing estate funds with your personal funds.
- Work with the beneficiaries
The beneficiaries will often know more about the estate then you do. Work with the beneficiaries to understand what the estate comprises of and how they would like it dealt with in accordance with the Will. As the executor you have the final call, but a smooth result is best achieved through consistent and clear communication with the beneficiaries.
- Find out how assets are owned
Make enquiries as to how assets are owned. This includes real property such as land and personal property such as bank accounts. The significance of this is that where property is owned jointly with another person, it will usually transfer to the remaining survivor instead of forming part of the estate. You may require legal advice to determine whether this is the case.
- Keep detailed records
Keep detailed records of all money coming into and leaving the estate account. Also make notes of all phone conversations had in relation to administering the estate. This will make things a lot easier if beneficiaries require updates or take issue with how you are managing the estate.
- Don’t rush the process
Rushing things usually means they are not done correctly. Errors from executors can cause unnecessary delay and expense. In certain circumstances an executor may even be found to be personally liable if they have acted dishonestly.
- Seek legal assistance if you are finding it too much
Being an executor is a big job which often takes an extended period of time to finalise. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed about your role, contact us for how we may assist you. At Lynn & Brown Lawyers, we work on fixed fee value based pricing. We give you options as to how much involvement you would like us to have, empowering you to make the best decision possible. Contact us for more information about how one of our deceased estates lawyers can help you.
About the authors:
Zoe Rosman is a Perth lawyer and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 2018 and specialises in Family Law and Wills & Estate Planning matters. Jacqui is a Perth lawyer and director, and has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in family law, mediation and estate planning. Jacqui is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator and a Notary Public.