An Executor is the person (or sometimes more than one person) named in a Will, to carry out the wishes of the will-maker after their death.

Often solicitors or specialist trustee companies are named as executors.

The executor may have to:

  • collect all the assets and have them valued, if necessary
  • find out what debts are owed and pay them from the money made by selling the assets
  • arrange tax returns and pay taxes (if required)
  • claim life insurance
  • arrange the funeral
  • apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’ (they must be over 18 when they apply)
  • distribute the estate according to the Will and the Law
  • prepare a final account showing all payments in and out of the ‘estate’ and set out how the assets have been dealt with
  • initiate or defend legal action on behalf of the ‘estate’.

The Public Trustee as Executor – The ‘estates’ administered by the Public Trustee are not limited to those where the deceased has appointed the Public Trustee as his/her executor, under the terms of the Will.

The Public Trustee may also administer estates whereby:

  • the Executor named in the Will does not wish to administer the estate of the deceased and appoints the Public Trustee in his/her place
  • the Executor named in the Will has died and those entitled in the ‘estate’, appoint the Public Trustee to administer the estate
  • the Executor and/or the beneficiaries experience difficulty during the administration of the ‘estate’ and apply to the court to transfer the administration to the Public Trustee to be completed
  • the deceased dies ‘intestate’ (ie, without leaving a valid Will) and those entitled authorise the Public Trustee to administer the ‘estate’.

If No Executor is Named in the Will – If the will-maker failed to appoint an Executor, usually the court needs to appoint someone to administer the ‘estate’.

A person appointed by the court is called an Administrator (of a Will). Often this is the beneficiary with the largest portion of the ‘estate’ or the nearest next-of-kin, as defined within each State or Territory’s legislation.

An Administrator has the same responsibilities as the Executor. An Administrator must be at least 18 years of age. They must administer a deceased ‘estate’ as required by Law and can be held personally responsible for failing to do so.

For more information, please see the ‘Public Trustees’ websites for your State or Territory listed in our Useful Organisations section.

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