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The duties of an executor of a will

Once you have passed away, the executor is the person who carries out your wishes as set out in your Will and administers your estate. It is important that you choose the right person for carrying out that task.
The fact sheet below provides information that may assist you to choose to right person.

Frequently Asked Questions

The executor is a person that the will-maker has nominated to be in charge of the administration of the will-maker’s estate following their death. The executor carries out the instructions set out in the Will, and is the legal personal representative of a deceased person.

  • Obtain the last Will of the deceased and organise the funeral or cremation.
  • Notify the deceased’s beneficiaries and business associates of the death.
  • Look after the estate (e.g. make sure that all the deceased’s assets are secure and arrange insurance protection where required).
  • Arrange for the deceased’s property and business investments that need managing to be managed.
  • Value the estate as at the date of death.
  • Obtain authority (apply for probate) to administer the estate. Get legal advice.
  • Assume control of all the assets of the estate.
  • Complete any necessary income tax returns. Get tax advice.
  • Pay in this order:
    • funeral expenses;
    • any tax debt; and then
    • creditors, legal fees and any fees for administering the estate and obtaining probate, out of pocket expenses, etc.
  • Prepare a final statement and transfer cash and assets to the beneficiaries (as per the Will), keeping appropriate records.
  • Establish a trust if a beneficiary is under 18 years of age or mentally incapable or there are specific instructions to this effect in the Will. Note that many trusts will need ongoing administration over several years. Get legal advice.

All the executors named in the Will can apply for probate. If only one executor wishes to apply for probate, the other executor(s) may renounce their duties or reserve their right to apply for probate at a later date. Get legal advice.

You are under no legal obligation to do so. If you do not want to act as an executor you need to renounce your appointment as executor. If you do not want to act as executor and a substitute executor is named in the Will, the substitute executor can take on all the duties. If the Will does not name another executor, get legal advice.

There is no requirement for this. The executor can arrange a meeting with family members of the deceased and beneficiaries named in the Will and explain the provisions there. Alternatively, it may be practical to send a copy of the Will to anyone with a legitimate interest. It is not a legal requirement that a beneficiary be provided with a copy of the Will.

You are responsible for any loss which the estate incurs from your unauthorised or negligent acts.

No, the executor must follow the terms of the Will. To change the manner in which the assets are to be distributed, court action may be required. If there is agreement between beneficiaries, the terms of the Will can be altered by means of a Deed of Family Arrangement. Get legal advice.

It is advisable to get legal advice. The cost of legal assistance is a debt of the estate and should come out of the estate once probate has been granted.

This is an application made by the executor to the Supreme Court of Western Australia. The executor must satisfy the Supreme Court of the following:

  • that the Will is the last Will of the deceased, and there is no later Will;
  • that when signing the Will the deceased was at least 18 years of age, was of sound mind and not subject to undue influence; and
  • that the Will was signed in the manner required by law.

The application is made by way of an affidavit and the original Will is lodged with the Supreme Court. If the application is successful the Supreme Court gives the executor a document called a Grant of Probate which entitles the executor to proceed with carrying out the terms of the Will. Get legal advice.

You have to wait at least 14 days after the death of the will-maker before applying for probate.

The general rule is the executor must act within a reasonable time. What is reasonable will depend on each estate. A simple estate can be wound up quickly while a complex estate may take some time to finalise.

If all assets are held in joint names a probate application is not required. If the deceased has made a nomination for their superannuation funds, and that is the only asset of the deceased, probate may not be required. If the estate is less than $10,000 you may not have to apply for probate. Get legal advice.

If discussions with the executor does not result in them applying for a grant, the beneficiaries may have to commence action in the Supreme Court to either force the executor to act or have the executor removed.

Sometimes in the Will the will-maker may set out how much an executor is to be paid. Otherwise the executor is not entitled to a commission.If all the beneficiaries agree for the executor to be paid, payment can be made to the executor. An application can be made to the Supreme Court to get direction from the Supreme Court. The executor may recover from the estate any reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred whilst administering the estate.

The executor can deal with the assets as soon as the Grant of Probate is received. In many cases, however, an executor cannot safely distribute the assets until six (6) months have elapsed from the granting of probate. This is because, in some cases, members of the family may challenge the Will by applying to the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Furthermore, there are certain things the executor has to do before distributing the assets of the deceased. Refer to our fact sheet on Administering the Estate of the Deceased after a Grant of Probate has been Obtained

Next Steps

Having read the information in the fact sheet you may want to make an appointment at CAB to have a Will drafted for you.

Informing Western Australia since 1963

Mission: To connect people with information and services so they can make independent and informed decisions.

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