What are the duties of an executor?
Acting as the executor or administrator of a deceased estate is very serious duty. There are many important steps you will need to take to properly complete the administration of the estate.
The duties of an executor or administrator include:
- Locate the original Will – if the deceased left a Will you must locate it store it safely before making an application for Probate. If the deceased did not leave a Will you should make an application for Letters of Administration.
- Organise the funeral – the deceased’s next of kin may arrange the funeral, but at law, it is the obligation of the executor or administrator.
- Protect the assets of the estate. This means securing valuable items such as jewellery, vehicles, and credit cards and also making sure the home and other valuable assets remain adequately insured.
- Advise relevant institutions and agencies of the death. You should contact the deceased’s bank and request that they freeze their accounts. Other institutions you may need to contact include Centrelink and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Obtain the necessary authority to deal with the estate. Depending on the type of estate you are dealing with, you may need a grant of probate of the will from the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
- Notify the beneficiaries of the estate. You should keep the beneficiaries informed about your progress in managing the assets of the estate.
- Advertise for creditors. You must take reasonable steps to identify and locate the deceased’s creditors.
- Tax returns. You must ensure that any outstanding tax returns for the deceased are lodged with the Australian Taxation Office. If necessary, you will also need to obtain a tax file number and lodge tax returns for the estate.
- Pass the final accounts of the estate at the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
- Distribute the assets of the estate according to the terms of the Will or, in the case of intestacy, the Adminsitration Act 1903 (WA).
As executor or administrator, you are accountable by law to both the beneficiaries of the estate and to the Supreme Court of Western Australia. It is important that you carry out your duties correctly to avoid any personal liability. If you are unsure about how to carry out your duties as executor you should seek legal advice.
Your reasonable legal costs are payable from the assets of the estate. It is far better to seek advice if you are unsure on how to carry out your duties rather than risk liability for mistakes made in handing the estate.