The executor of a will is the person whom the will-maker has chosen to deal with their estate after their passing. An executor ascertains and secures the estate assets, pays the debts of the deceased from the estate, and distributes assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
Acting as an executor requires a number of decisions and actions to be taken, and the commitment can last for over two years. If you feel that you cannot take on this responsibility, you should not agree to be an executor. It is possible to renounce your position of executor after the deceased has passed. Please keep mind, once you start acting as the executor, you cannot renounce, or choose to stop acting, without application to the Court for an Order.
As the executor, it is your responsibility to keep the deceased’s assets secure, keep accurate accounting and records, and to distribute the assets. One of the most challenging aspects is creating the list of assets and liabilities of the deceased. It is important to account for all assets and liabilities so you have an accurate picture of the value of the estate, and what will eventually be distributed to the beneficiaries.
As the executor, you will likely need to apply to the Court to probate the will. Probate is a legal process that confirms that the will is legally valid and confirms that the executor is permitted to deal with the assets of the estate. Following the Grant of Probate, the deceased’s assets will be transferred into your name as executor, so that you may sell, invest and distribute the assets as necessary.
If you agree to be an executor, we strongly recommend consulting a lawyer regarding your responsibilities. The lawyer’s fees will be paid from the deceased’s estate. Even if you elect not to hire a lawyer to assist with this process, you will still remain liable for anything that occurs while you are the executor. For example, if you distribute the estate assets too early, and later discover that there are outstanding taxes owing on the estate, you will be personally liable for this amount. This is why it is crucial to understand your responsibilities, and potential liabilities, while acting as executor.
At Hammerberg Lawyers LLP, we have experienced Wills and Estates Lawyers and staff, and we can guide you seamlessly through the process of executor accounting, Probate, and applications to the Court. Contact us for more information.