Q & A – Estate Administration
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If you have been named as Executor under a Will the person who has passed away has entrusted you with an incredibly significant and important role. You have been charged with the responsibility to ensure that the proceeds of that person’s life’s work (being the assets of their Estate) are dealt with in accordance with the wishes that they have expressed in their Will.
This is not only a significant responsibility morally but also carries with it certain legal responsibilities which Executors must discharge carefully or face liability to the Beneficiaries of the Estate.
Generally we are engaged by Executors to attend to the administration of the Estate on their behalf and to do everything for them. In certain circumstances however an Executor wishes to take a more hands on role themselves and we encourage them to generally ensure that the following matters as a minimum are attended to:
- Identify the Estate inventory. It is essential that the assets and liabilities of the Estate are identified at the earliest opportunity. In practical terms this will often involve:
- Undertaking a Land Title Registry search to ascertain what assets the Will maker had
- Contacting financial institutions and superannuation funds to identify what bank accounts and superannuation interests the Will maker had
- Identifying any liabilities that the Will maker may have had to financial institutions, credit companies and the like
- Liaising with the Will maker’s accountants and/or Solicitors to ask whether there are any assets that may not automatically be known or come to mind
- Ensure that the Will has appropriate clarity to identify how the distribution of the Estate assets is to occur – it is critical that the Executor of the Will knows exactly which beneficiary is to receive which asset or portion of an asset of an Estate to ensure that the Will is administered strictly in accordance with its term.
- Realise the assets of the Estate as early as possible. Quite often it is necessary for an Executor to sell assets such as property and shares and/or call in superannuation interests and the like to be in a position to distribute the Estate to its Beneficiaries. This process often takes longer than one might think at first blush and it is critical that it gets commenced at the earliest opportunity.
- Prepare a final distribution statement and inventory to be sent to the Beneficiaries. We encourage all Executors to prepare a final statement to Beneficiaries outlining and demonstrating the following:
- All assets that have been realised on the Estate’s behalf
- All liabilities and payments that have been made on the Estate’s behalf
- All payments that have been made to the Beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the Will