A close friend approached me last week concerned that she had been nominated executor in her grandmother’s Will, she was uncertain exactly as to what this would entail.
It is a familiar scenario. Every day executors are nominated in Wills. Usually the nominated person is aware of this, sometimes they are not (in which case they are not alerted to this fact until the estate is enacted). Either way, too often the nominated person is unsure of what the role entails and what Law requires of them.
What is an executor?
An executor is a person that the Will maker has nominated to be in charge of the administration of the estate following their death.
Who can be named as an executor?
The executor usually will be a family member, or alternatively, a trusted advisor such as a solicitor. The latter is always a good option if you know that there might be conflicts within the family since they can act independently.
While it is courteous to appoint an executor having advised the person of your intention, it is not something which the law mandates must occur. This accounts for the reason why many people are only aware of this appointment after a death.
What do I need to do as an executor one the love one has died?
Locating the Will is your first and most important task. If you are aware that you are the executor from the outset then this is often straightforward. However, this is not always an easy task and may involve quite a bit of document sorting and sifting to locate the papers.
Most people will store these alongside other important documents. Often you will be able to locate a copy of the Will and from here you will be directed to a lawyer’s office or a trustee company for the original. In this case it is the role of the executor to make contact with the holder of the Will, advising of the deceased’s death and requesting confirmation that they do indeed hold the original document.
At this stage it is prudent to leave the original wherever it is for the time being and ask that a couple of “certified” copies of the Will to be sent to you as the executor.
In the event that the deceased or the executor already has possession of the original Will it is imperative that the condition of the document is not altered in any way.
Did you know? It is critical that a Will is kept in its original condition. Do not alter the Will in any way. This includes removing staples (even for the purposes of photocopying), adding paperclips or other fastening devices to the document, or making any written changes or erasures. Doing any of these things will result in additional time, trouble and expense in administering the estate once an application has to be made to Court for a Grant of Probate.
As soon as possible the executor should take steps to identify and safeguard the assets. For example a house should be made secure, insurance arrangements should be checked to see that they are adequate, Banks should be advised of the death so they can freeze the accounts, advise Centrelink and re-direct mail.
The executor is responsible for compiling a list of the various assets, including:
- Details of bank accounts;
- Other investments with banks, managed funds or financial institutions;
- Personal effects;
- House property, you will need copies of the council rates;
- Any debts that are owing to the deceased;
- Any debts that the deceased owes to other people.
Once you have gathered this this information it is time to meet with a lawyer to prepare the documentation for a Grant of Probate. This document is legally required to allow the release any assets belonging to the estate to the nominated beneficiaries. It is vital that you seek support from a solicitor skilled in this field of law. Too often we hear of difficulties encountered at this stage because the solicitor employed was unfamiliar with the nuances of this area of the Law.
As industry leaders in the field of Wills and Estates Welden & Coluccio Lawyers can assist you to obtain this grant within a realistic time frame so that you can relax and get on with living.