An executor’s primary duty is to act in the best interests of the estate at all times and to safeguard the assets of the estate until they are handed over to the rightful beneficiaries. Any individual over the age of 18 years of age may be nominated as your executor. However, the role of the executor involves a high burden of responsibilities, as such it is always recommended that the individual appointed has an understanding of the estate and is reliable. An important consideration in whether to appoint someone as an executor of your Will is whether they have the time and skills to administer your estate properly.
Some of the key responsibilities include:
- Locating the Will and advising the beneficiaries of their entitlements;
- Applying for probate;
- Preserving the estates assets and obtaining financial advice if appropriate to assist with this;
- Gathering details of the estates assets and liabilities;
- Paying estate liabilities;
- Finalising the deceased personal tax affairs; and
- Distributing the assets to beneficiaries.
It is important to note that an Executor is not obliged to accept their appointment and may simply renounce without providing any reasons.
Further, executors may be appointed jointly or severely. If you appoint two or more people to act as joint executors, they must all act together. Up to four executors may be appointed to act jointly. However, the more executors which you appoint, the higher the scope for disagreement and the greater the cost and time involved in administering your estate. For these reasons, we typically encourage clients to appoint a maximum of two executors but with the option of appointing “back-ups” and a third party in the event that the two executors are unable to agree.
If you die without a Will or the executors nominated in your Will cannot or do not wish to carry out the role, other people who are interested in the administration of the estate can apply to the court for ‘letters of administration’.
Expenses and Remuneration
In Western Australia, an Executor can reimburse themselves from the estate for reasonable expenses, including travel costs, parking fees and any costs that the Executor outlays for the funeral arrangements or administration of the estate.
Breaches of Duty
If the Executor does not perform their duties with appropriate care and diligence, then they can be held responsible for any loss or damage to the estate. A suitable party can apply to have an Executor removed for breach of duty.
Joss Legal is experienced in drafting Wills and the process of appointing an executor. If you require any advice in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact our offices on (08) 6559 7480.