Executor Assist - frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

On this page:

General FAQ

  • 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 locates 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.

FAQ - Probate Service

  • What is probate?

    Probate is the first step in an executor’s duties. It is a document issued by the court certifying the will’s validity and confirming the appointment of an executor to administer the deceased estate. The grant of probate confirms the executor’s right to administer the estate. The court requires proof that the executor appointed in the will is alive, willing and competent to undertake the tasks involved. It is also important to verify that the will itself is the last will made by the deceased.

  • How do I know if I need to get a Grant of Probate?

    As a general rule, if the person who has died owned an asset over the value of $15,000 in their sole name, you will need a Grant of Probate.

  • Can I submit the application myself?

    You can. Public Trust is here to help you make the best choice based on the complexities and time frame involved. We can minimize the burden by doing everything for you if required, with our Probate service.

  • What will it cost?

    We offer our full range of estate administration services depending on the service you require, our fee might be a combination of fixed price and on an hourly rate basis. If we're doing all the work for you, we will quote you a fixed fee for every element of the estate administration process, including all third party costs and tax. Our fixed price will be based on the tasks required to administer the estate and not on the time taken, or the value of the estate.

  • Do I need to involve a solicitor?

    Public Trust is authorised to carry out all the functions of a probate solicitor in estate administration terms.  

    Not only are we probate experts, we will give you a fixed price quote at the outset and provide a specialist team who will be your point of contact throughout the duration of the estate administration.

  • There is a will that leaves everything to my mother/father; does this mean that I don't need a Grant of Probate?

    It depends who is appointed as the executor, if the person who has died owned assets in his or her sole name, over $15,000 you will probably need a Grant of Probate. Exceptions include where the only assets are jointly owned or under the value of $15,000.

  • How and by whom are we regulated?

    Public Trust is governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of New Zealand.

  • What is an estate?

    Someone's estate is everything that they own in their sole name; all of their assets (whether real property or personal property) and their debts.

  • Who are executors?

    An executor is quite simply a person the deceased wished to deal with the administration of their estate after their death, and is the person, or one of the people, named in the will.

  • 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.
  • On what types of estates can we assist you with probate?

    We can do probate application on all estates. However, there are limits to what Executor Assist can cover. Call us for a chat.

  • What documents do I need to sign to obtain Public Trust’s Probate services?

    A letter of engagement between the executor and Public Trust to provide a clear plan moving forward.

  • Now I understand the roles and responsibility of an executor, I don’t think I will have time to do the estate administration myself. Can Public Trust help me?

    Yes we can help as an agent or as an executor. If Public Trust acts as an agent, you retain executorship and control over all decisions whilst we work in the background to help you fulfill your role. If you want to renounce executorship to Public Trust, it needs to be done before the probate application is granted by the High Court.

  • What happens when the executor of the will has passed away before the administration is complete?

    According to the Administration Act 1969, if the executor of the will has passed away before the administration is complete, the executor of their estate can take on the administration.

  • What if as an executor, I don’t want to do the last will search?

    If it's not the last will then the will may not be valid and future claims may be lodged against the estate.

  • How do I swear/affirm an affidavit of death?

    Any person that can confirm that the deceased has passed away by swearing that they

    a) attended the funeral

    b) were present when the person died

    c) saw the deceased after they had died can swear or affirm this fact in the presence of a Justice of the Peace or a solicitor.

FAQ - Administration Service

  • I’m an Executor who has already got a Grant of Probate from the High Court. Can Public Trust help me with the estate administration?

    Normally we would look after the estate administration process from start to finish. However, we can review the probate and assist you with your enquiry. Please contact us to see if we can assist.

  • How long does it usually take for the estate’s assets to be realised?

    It depends on what the assets are. While some can be quick, other assets can take a few months to be collected.

    When a person has died unexpectedly and the Death Certificate is ‘subject to Coroner’s findings’. Insurers usually wait for the outcome of the coroner’s report before agreeing to pay out a policy.

  • I’m not sure what debts the deceased has. How can I make sure that all debts are paid?

    Public Trust can help you advertise a notice to creditors.

  • I already know what debts the deceased has. Does that mean I don’t need to advertise to the creditors?

    As the Executor, you can make that decision. However, under s35 of the Trustee Act 1956, Executors are personally liable to pay the estate debts unless they have advertised in the newspaper.

  • When does my role as Executor end?

    The role ends when all distributions are made to the beneficiaries, and all expenses and tax have been paid.

    However, distribution to under-age beneficiaries and other ongoing estates is not part of the executor’s duties. This is the duty of the trustee(s).

  • As an Executor, can I get paid for the hours I work on administering the estate?

    Unless specified in the Will, the executor does not get paid to do the estate administration.

  • Can I distribute the estate immediately after the assets are realised?

    The law states that should an executor distribute the estate within six months of the date of Probate and a successful claim is made, they can be held personally liable.  The choice as to whether they wait the six months or not rests with them.

  • What happens if I still want to go ahead with distribution before the 6-month hold is up?

    The executor is personally liable for any claims made on the estate within that six-month period. However, in circumstances where the executor is sure that there will be no claims, the executor may choose to distribute the estate early.

  • Can I transfer all the realised funds to the trustee account as soon as possible as I have numerous creditors chasing me for the debts of the deceased?

    According to Insolvency Act 1967, there is an order of priority that determines which debts are to be paid first.

  • Can you help me with the tax return to the date of death?

    Yes we can. Please be aware that the process can take weeks, depending on when we get a response from IRD.

FAQ - Estate Service

  • When Public Trust acts in the agency role, which assets and liabilities can Public Trust manage?

    Public Trust can realise most assets that form part of the estate administration depending on the regulations and laws of the country.

  • If I need further legal advice, what’s the process?

    Public Trust can offer further legal advice as well as develop a plan.

  • As the Executor, what do I do if the deceased lives in a different part of New Zealand?

    Public Trust has offices across New Zealand, making it easy to access support.

  • How does Public Trust deal with special requests stipulated in the Will?

    Public Trust will work with the executor to create a plan on how to deal with special requests. This can include shipping of jewellery, re-homing a pet or any other requests which are made.

  • What if I want Public Trust to take over the Executorship of the estate on my behalf?

    Public Trust can provide a full service acting as the executor of the estate. Call us on 0800 783 932 or email executorassist@publictrust.co.nz to discuss the option of renouncing your executorship to Public Trust. Note that the renunciation of executorship needs to be done before the probate application is granted by the High Court.

  • One of the assets of the deceased is a property. Is this included in the Administration Service?

    No it’s not. Administration Service only covers simple New Zealand-based assets and liabilities. However, we can assist you with property management as part of the Estate Service.

  • The deceased has a life insurance policy in a different country. Can I use the grant of probate I obtained from the New Zealand High Court to obtain that asset?

    It depends on which country it is. The only jurisdiction to have express recognition of New Zealand probates and letters of administration is England and Wales. Other jurisdictions will accept New Zealand grants of proof where reciprocal arrangements exist. Where there are no reciprocal arrangements a new grant of probate is required. Note that insurance companies will have their own specific requirements which may include re-sealing the New Zealand probate in that country's court.