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What does an executor need to do when a loved one dies?

When a loved one passes away, the executor of their Will is responsible for managing their  estate and carrying out their wishes as outlined in their Will. The specific duties of an executor can vary depending on the complexity of the estate, but we have outlined the common tasks executors will need to do when a loved one dies to manage their estate according to law.

10 steps for executors managing a loved one’s estate 


1. Executors need to locate their loved one’s last Will

The executor should locate the original last Will and any other relevant legal documents, such as trusts. The Will and Death Certificate are the main documents that will be required by each organisation the executor will need to notify and deal within looking after the estate. Generally lawyer-prepared Wills are held in safe custody with the law firm who prepared them, otherwise enquiries should be made with the Public Trustee, banks as to their safe custody, and within their loved one’s home.

2. Executors undertake the Probate process

The executor may need to initiate the probate process of the estate. Probate is a legal procedure that validates the will and grants the executor the authority to administer the estate. There are time periods attached to estates that go through the Probate process and it is important to get legal advice from an experienced lawyer about the process and an executor’s rights, responsibilities and protections available under law.

3. Executors need to make funeral arrangements

The executor will usually be the one making or overseeing the funeral arrangements according to their loved one’s wishes. Part of this may involve reading their loved one’s Will to see whether there are any wishes or directions as to disposal of their body and their funeral.

4. Executors need to notify relevant parties

The executor should inform family members, close friends, and beneficiaries named in the will about their loved one’s death. They may also need to notify government agencies that haven’t already been notified through the funeral director, financial institutions (banks), employers, and any other relevant entities.

5. Executors need to gather and secure their loved one’s assets

The executor should locate and secure their loved one’s assets, such as bank accounts, real estate, investments, and personal belongings. This may involve changing locks, redirecting mail, and safeguarding valuable items. Make sure insurance companies are notified of their loved one’s death – this is particularly important with house insurance.

6. Executors need to inventory and appraise their loved one’s assets

The executor should create an inventory of all assets and obtain professional appraisals if necessary. This includes documenting personal property, real estate, vehicles, investments, and any other valuable items.

7. Executors need to manage the estate

The executor may need to open a separate bank account for the estate and manage their loved one’s finances during the probate process, although it is quite usual for the lawyer looking after the estate to hold estate monies in their trust account on behalf of the estate. Be careful if not applying for Probate that the bank will allow the executor to transact on the estate account opened without Probate – there are instances of banks not releasing monies deposited for an estate without Probate even when Probate would not otherwise have been needed. Executors should handle ongoing financial obligations, such as mortgage payments (or notification to the bank of the delay in making payments) or insurance premiums and updating insurers as to their loved one’s death.

8. Executors need to arrange payment of debts and expenses

The executor is responsible for identifying and paying off any outstanding debts of their loved one, including funeral expenses, outstanding bills, and taxes. The creditors should be notified of the loved one’s death to confirm the debt will be able to be paid once probate has been granted or the accounts have been released to the executor’s control.

9. Executors need to finalise legal and financial matters

The executor should finalise all legal and financial matters related to the estate, including filing tax returns, closing accounts, cancelling subscriptions. This may involve selling assets and handling any required legal transfers.

10. Executors need to distribute assets in accordance with the Will

Once all debts, taxes, and expenses are paid, the executor is responsible for making sure that the beneficiaries in the Will receive their distribution from the estate. Generally, executors have an “executor’s year” to get to this last stage.

Every deceased estate is different and it is not always easy to navigate or know what your rights and options are. If you have a query and want to chat it over with a lawyer why not book in a free 10 minute chat here or send us an email at [email protected].

We’ll look after you.

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