Administering an estate can be an overwhelming task involving complexity and considerations which often fall on an individual or individuals still in the process of grieving. Our professional and compassionate Gold Coast Estate Lawyers aim to assist executors with the smooth administration of the deceased estate quickly, painlessly and cost effectively.
In simple terms, administration of the estate involves calling in all assets of the estate, paying out estate debts and thereafter the distribution of the estate assets to the beneficiaries either in accordance with the provisions of the deceased will or in accordance with the rules of intestacy.
Duties of an Executor
An executor who is appointed by the deceased’s will, is responsible for the deceased’s property and for payment of all outstanding debts and taxes from the estate funds before distributing the net assets of the estate to the beneficiaries of the will.
Duties of an executor may include:
- making funeral arrangements;
- ascertaining all assets and liabilities of the estate;
- notifying relevant authorities of the deceased’s passing;
- collecting, recovering and preserving the deceased’s assets including superannuation, bank funds, shares, outstanding loans and insurance payouts;
- in dealing with real property, attending to transmission applications or lodging records of death with the Department of Resources;
- maintaining assets of the deceased;
- paying debts of the deceased owing prior to death and any incurred throughout estate administration;
- possible litigation in respect of the estate (including challenges to the will and or family provision applications) or estate property;
- attending to any tax liability of the deceased;
- applying for probate to the Supreme Court;
- contacting beneficiaries to advise as to their entitlements under the will and keep them reasonably informed as to the administration process;
- preparing and maintaining a statement of assets and liabilities for the beneficiaries;
- distributing to beneficiaries entitled in accordance with the will;
- compliance with the will and any other duties stated in the will; and
- establishing any testamentary trusts and holding assets on trust for any particular beneficiary (such as minors).
The executor must also ensure that any property and other assets are preserved until they can be realised or distributed among beneficiaries. This includes an obligation to perform any reasonable maintenance or repairs and not allowing assets to perish or fall into a state of disrepair while waiting for the estate to be finalised and funds should be invested appropriately.
Either a spouse, child or dependant (a person who was wholly or substantially maintained or supported by the deceased at the time of death) can make a claim for a share or a more adequate share of the estate by way of a family provision application. An executor must not make distributions to beneficiaries until he or she is sure that there is no likelihood of a claim being made for a share of the estate.
Whether the will maker wants to distribute their assets evenly between family members or donate their entire estate to charity, it’s the executor’s responsibility to fulfil their requests.
Failing to act in the best interests of an estate and its beneficiaries can open up personal liability for an executor and a challenge to the executor’s appointment by disgruntled beneficiaries.
Executors may renounce their appointment and may do so without the leave of the Supreme Court where they have not taken any steps to administer or intermingle the estate. Where such steps have been taken, a formal Court application permitting the Executor to step down will be required.
Unless they have been appointed to manage a will in a professional capacity, executors don’t usually get paid. They may however by order of the court or agreement of all beneficiaries, be paid a “commission”. The extent of that commission depends on the extent of work performed by the executor or administrator and the nature of the assets that they were required to manage and distribute.
Professional estate administration is essential particular in these times of increased litigation and contest of wills. Let our estate lawyers help you as experts in providing professional guidance to executors to discharge their obligations and to effectively administer the estate.