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Executor’s Checklist

An Executor appointed by a Will has an important role to play in the administration of a deceased person’s estate.

The role of an Executor is often surrounded by mystery and so to assist you to understand just what an Executor has to do, the following ‘Executor’s Checklist’ may be helpful.

  1. Initial Procedures

    1. Obtain and review the last Will and any Codicils of the deceased.
    2. Check to see if there are any directions in relation to funeral arrangements.
    3. Organize the funeral.
    4. Notify the deceased’s beneficiaries and business associates of the death.
    5. Look after the estate (e.g. make sure that all of the deceased’s assets are secure and arrange insurance protection where required).
    6. Arrange for the deceased’s property and business investments that need managing to be managed.
    7. Assess the immediate needs of the beneficiaries and ensure that they do not suffer unnecessary hardship within the terms of the Will and the duties and obligations of the Executor.
    8. Retain a Solicitor to assist the Executor – your Solicitor will attend to many of the matters listed below.
    9. Gather information:-
      1. Obtain the death certificate from birth, Deaths, and Marriages (usually ordered by the Funeral Director).
      2. Collect personal information and papers for all assets and liabilities, e.g:
        1. Bank accounts (BSB and account numbers);
        2. Shareholdings (shareholder numbers);
        3. Title deeds to any properties;
        4. Tax Invoice from the Funeral Director and/or cemetery;
        5. Tax Invoices for any other debts due either before or after the date of death.
      3. Probate the Will:-
        1. Publish a Notice of Intention to Apply for Probate (NB: depending on the nature of estate assets it is not always necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate, e.g. where assets are held jointly by a surviving spouse).
        2. Apply to the Supreme Court of New South Wales for a Grant of Probate for the last Will and any Codicils.
  2. Gathering Assets

    1. Open an Estate bank account – this will not be necessary if the Solicitor for the Executor is gathering assets and holding the proceeds in the Solicitor’s Trust Account.
    2. Obtain an Estate Tax File Number from the ATO if it will be necessary to lodge an Estate Income Tax Return.
    3. Contact any financial institutions to find out the balance of the account and any accrued but unpaid interest as of the date of death of the deceased.
    4. Contact the employer, if possible, to obtain details of accrued but unpaid wages, holiday pay, long service leave, and leave loading.
    5. Contact the deceased’s Superannuation fund.
    6. Contact any life insurance provider.
    7. Assume control of all assets of the estate, including but not limited to, any superannuation funds of the deceased where they are payable to the estate.
    8. In those cases where it will take some time to administer the estate, consider safely maximizing the assets by renting out real estate on say a short-term lease and/or investing money in interest-bearing accounts. Obtain financial advice where appropriate.
    9. Determine which assets are subject to Probate and which pass automatically:-
      1. Joint property passes to the surviving joint tenant; and
      2. Life insurance and superannuation benefits may pass directly to their specified beneficiaries.
    10. Take physical custody or control of the Estate assets and safeguard them.
    11. Obtain valuations and appraisals of assets as necessary (e.g. for capital gains tax purposes if required).
  3. Payment of Debts and Expenses

    1. Pay the deceased’s current debts such as utilities, medical expenses, credit cards, etc.
    2. Estate expenses such as Court costs, Executor, and Solicitor’s fees.
    3. File appropriate tax returns:-
      1. Deceased’s final Income Tax Return/s; and
      2. Estate Income Tax Return/s.
  4. Finalising Estate Administration

    1. Publish a Notice of Intention to Distribute Estate Assets – this protects the Executor from any personal liability for the payment of creditors who fail to give notice of their claim.
    2. Note the requirement for any estate distribution to be made not before six (6) months from the date of death of the deceased and one (1) month after the publication of the above notice (or if distributing before, then be aware that if a creditor comes forward claiming an estate debt and the estate has already been distributed, then the Executor may be personally liable for the payment of such debt.
    3. Distribute the Estate assets:-
      1. Specific bequests of cash and/or property should be distributed;
      2. Sell property that must be liquidated;
      3. Distribute any remaining estate assets;
      4. Establish any trusts provided for in the Will (for example, Trusts are required if a beneficiary is under 18 years of age or mentally incapable, or there are specific instructions to this effect in the Will). Note that many trusts will need ongoing administration over several years.
    4. Obtain Notices of Assessment for Income Tax.
    5. Final report/accounting of all receipts, disbursements, and activities of estate and Executor.
    6. File and pass accounts in Court if necessary.
    7. Close estate accounts and pay any final expenses.

For more information about Wills and Estates and the duties and responsibilities of Executors, please contact Geoff Brazel at Brazel Moore Lawyers at (02) 4324 7699.

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