- Have you been appointed as an executor in someone’s Will?
- Are you aware of your duties and obligations when acting as an executor of an estate?
- Do you know how to protect yourself from claims by beneficiaries or third parties?
As an executor you are responsible for ensuring that the assets of a deceased estate are dealt with in accordance with the Will AND current legislation.
Executors have significant responsibilities and obligations which include much more than simply distributing assets to beneficiaries. The executor has absolute control and management of the estate and its assets. Depending on the estate, there can be a lot of paper work involved in administering the deceased estate, including an application to the Supreme Court for a grant of representation, disposing of or dealing with asset holders, and in some cases defend any claims made against the deceased estate.
For example, what do you do if a beneficiary in the will is bankrupted? What do you do when the beneficiaries want to distribute the estate differently to the instructions provided in the Will?
A consideration of the current law and court cases is required to ensure that any solution or estate distribution protects the executor from any future claims.
The myth that a beneficiary has the same rights and responsibilities as the executor of a Will is incorrect. An executor and a beneficiary of an estate have different roles, responsibilities and obligations. An executor is burdened with significantly more risks and responsibilities than a beneficiary. For example, a beneficiary may want the executor to distribute the assets of the estate immediately or distribute the estate in a particular manner. Blindly following a beneficiary’s request could expose an executor to a claim whilst the beneficiary faces minimal or even no consequences.
In addition, an executor is accountable to the beneficiaries of the estate and in some cases third parties. If a beneficiary or third party suffers a loss or if they have any grievances in the way the executor has administered the estate, the executor may be sued and may be held personally liable.
Understanding your obligations and the relevant law is extremely important as an executor. It is therefore important that an executor engages the services of the relevant professionals to help them administer the estate and to advise them of what an executor can or cannot do, should or should not do and how to protect themselves from future claims or liabilities.