Choosing an executor of an estate

Date: Oct 03, 2012

According to the Salvation Army, roughly 36 per cent of all Australians do not have a valid will and as a result of that, there are some difficult decisions millions of people have to make. Estate planning is a difficult process, not just because there is a lot of paperwork, but deciding the content of a will is also challenging.

One of the main difficulties surrounds who should be deemed executor of your estate. The role of an executor is a challenging one which involves a lot of time and paperwork.

The role of an executor is not to be undertaken lightly and can have duties like notifying beneficiaries of what is in the will and what they're entitled to. An executor must also insure and value the assets of the estate, prepare a final tax return of the deceased and pay any debts the estate might have.

The role of an executor might extend beyond these initial duties, as beneficiaries may not be legally entitled to their inheritance if they're less than 18 years old. The executor may have to establish a trust and maintain such a trust until the beneficiary comes of age.

As a general rule, the executor should not be a major beneficiary to the estate, as this can cloud judgement. An executor role could be attributed to a trusted extended family member who doesn't stand to gain much from the estate.

A brother-in-law for example, could do the job and could also do so with some sort of remuneration offering within the will which is not associated with ongoing investments like stocks or property titles. It's a good idea to choose someone who is familiar with the estate, as well as the nature of any investments or personal or business debts.

Many wills often carry more than one executor to share the responsibility and in New South Wales, there is no limit to how many executors a will can contain. However, there are difficulties as any decision by executors must be made together and any papers which must be signed in the capacity as executor must be done so by all of them.

Wills are not only time consuming to draw up, but even harder to decide to whom, things should be allocated. Think long and hard about what part of your estate should be awarded to whom as it may have long last repercussions for that person.