Executor Assist - frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

You may also find these useful:

If you have any questions that aren't answered here, contact us.

What is Executor Assist?

Executor Assist is a specialised service designed to assist executors with some or all of the tasks associated with administering a will.

What are the typical initial duties of an executor?

Locating the original will, advising family and friends, then assisting with and paying for the funeral, and undertaking the special wishes and instructions of the deceased.

What does an executor need to know?

Estate Administration can be very challenging and time consuming if you don’t have relevant experience in business, finance or law. Public Trust is here to make your life easier through Executor Assist.

What happens if no will can be found?

The estate will be distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy, which provide a particular order of payment.

Who notifies and located the beneficiaries of the will?

The executor. All beneficiaries (including those overseas) must be contacted.

When can a will be contested?

Relatives who feel they haven’t been adequately provided for can contest a will. Spouses, former spouses, defacto partners, children, step-children, grandchildren and parents may all have a right to make a claim. Other people, like caregivers, who claim they’ve been made a promise in return for services can also contest a will.

What happens if the deceased has debts and liabilities?

It is the duty of the executor to establish a complete picture of the deceased’s finances, including identifying any debtors and creditors. Funeral expenses, income tax, fees for administering the estate and out-of-pocket expenses must also be paid.

Is it the role of the executor to carry out everyday tasks?

Yes, the executor has the responsibility to arrange for pets to be cared for, redirect mail, cancel services and pay any outstanding bills.

Does anything have to be done to secure the estate in the short term?

Yes. The executor must identify the estate assets including any overseas assets and have them valued, secured and insured. This would include such things as a home, contents, car, jewellery and investments.

What does an executor of a will have to do?

An executor is the person or organisation responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the deceased, as specified in their will, are carried out.

They make sure the assets are transferred to beneficiaries as smoothly and efficiently as possible. The executor is usually also the trustee, and the roles overlap.

I've been named executor - do I have to take on this responsibility?

Even though you've been nominated executor in a will, legally it's your decision whether you accept the responsibility.

You should carefully consider whether you accept the role as there are many tasks to complete, it can take a significant amount of time and it may not be the right thing for you and your family.

It's also important to remember that the person who appointed you wouldn't have wanted you to feel overwhelmed.

If you decide that the duties and legal responsibilities are too much, Public Trust can execute the will on your behalf.

What do I need to know as executor?

An executor's role includes applying for probate, locating all the beneficiaries, collecting and selling assets, distributing assets as well as paying estate expenses. You will also need to tie up any financial loose ends including lodging tax returns.

All of these responsibilities require an understanding of legal and accounting processes, so you are likely to require professional assistance. As an executor you need the ability to act independently, with sensitivity and fairness to all beneficiaries. Being an executor also carries the risk of personal liability.

It all adds up to being a very demanding role, at what can be a very difficult time.

What is the executor responsible for?

An executor has many tasks and legal obligations to perform, which are likely to include:

  • Overseeing the funeral arrangements
  • Completing an inventory of personal assets
  • Collecting and selling assets
  • Ensuring all creditors are paid
  • Completing and filing insurance documents
  • Notifying various agencies and organisations of the death
  • Preparing asset distribution reports for the beneficiaries
  • Managing any disputes.

How much time does an executor have to finalise an estate?

As a general rule of thumb, executors are allowed one year (“the executor’s year”) to fulfil their duties. Some estates will be complicated and take longer than this, and others can be distributed in less than a year. However, it’s advisable not to distribute the estate too early either, as you may not have received all the bills that have to be paid. If any claims are made against the estate, the executor may be held personally liable if they distribute less than 6 months after probate is granted.

There are other time limits you should be aware of as an executor. For example, if you don’t apply for probate within 3 months of the death then one of the beneficiaries or Public Trust can apply to be appointed administrator of the estate instead of you.

However, these are general rules and it’s best to get advice for your personal situation from a Public Trust expert. To get in touch, call 0800 371 471.

How can Public Trust help me?

We offer a comprehensive estate administration service called Executor Assist, which will take care of the whole process for you.

It means you can hand over your role as executor, safe in the knowledge that your loved one's estate will be managed professionally and impartially, and that all the tasks involved will be taken care of as quickly as possible.