I’m the Executor of an Estate – What Are My First Steps?

24 DEC 2019


Being appointed as an Executor of an Estate may appear an overwhelming task initially.  Paired with losing a loved one, comes what seems an insurmountable amount of paperwork and the important task of dealing with your loved ones Estate.

Q. So what is my first step? 

As an Executor, your first task will likely be to arrange the funeral.  If your loved one had a Will, this is a good time to call and discuss this with their solicitor and obtain a copy of the Will, if you do not have a copy. Sometimes, people set out their funeral preferences in their Will.

Q. What if my loved one did not have a pre-paid funeral and I cannot afford to pay for it personally? 

With the average cost of a funeral in Australia nearing $7,000.00, it is unlikely the Executor will personally have the funds to pay for the funeral.  In this case, the best course of action is to look to your loved one’s bank to pay for the expense.  If the Executor takes a copy of the Will and a copy of the funeral invoice to the bank, the bank will release the funds directly to the funeral home, to save the hassle of any person being out of pocket.

Q. Who should I notify of my loved one’s passing?

Aside from notifying the people in your loved one’s life who need to know, there are a few services that also need to be notified of their passing. 

If your loved one was receiving any form of pension, Centrelink should be advised as soon as is practical.  Until Centrelink are notified of a death, they continue to make payments to your loved one’s account and any funds paid after death, will need to be refunded to Centrelink.

It is also important that you notify you loved one’s home insurer of their passing. It is the responsibility of the Executor to ensure that the home and/or vehicle remain protected and insured at all times. 

You should also make a list of your loved one’s assets and liabilities (including superannuation) and notify each organisation of their passing. 

Q. When do I meet with the solicitor and what do I bring?

You can meet with a solicitor at any stage.  There is no time that is too early to meet with a solicitor to seek advice on how you should proceed and specifically, your responsibilities and obligations as an Executor. 

When you do meet with the solicitor, you should take all relevant documentation including, the Death Certificate or interim Death Certificate, identification of your loved one any documents or statements relating to any assets (including bank, share or superannuation statements, title documents to any properties, the Will (if you hold the original or a copy) and a copy of your identification.

Once you meet with your solicitor, the solicitor will essentially take over the management of the Estate and will guide you through the process.

Q. Who is entitled to a copy of the Will?

The following people are entitled to a copy of the Will:

  1. Any person named in this Will or an earlier Will.
  2. A spouse, de facto partner or child of the deceased.
  3. Any person who would be entitled to a share of the estate if the deceased person had died without a Will.
  4. Any parent or guardian of a minor referred to in the will or who would be entitled to a share of the estate if the deceased had died without a Will.
  5. Any person (including a creditor) who has or may have a claim against the estate.
  6. Any person committed with the management of the deceased person's estate under the NSW Trustee and Guardian Act 2009 immediately before the death of the deceased person.
  7. An attorney under an enduring power of attorney made by the deceased person.

Q. How long should the Estate take to finalise?

The time it takes to finalise an Estate varies depending on the size and nature of the Estate.

As a general guideline, the minimum time to finalise an estate is six (6) months from the date of death.  Generally, most estates are finalised within twelve (12) months from the date of death.  This is known as the “Executors Year.”

If you are an Executor of an Estate or if you would simply like some more information about what it means to be an Executor, please contact the Partner in Charge of the Estates Department, Krystle Wolthers on (02) 4626 5077 or by email at: kwolthers@marsdens.net.au.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication

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POSTED: 16 Jan 2024
The Estate Planning team here at Marsdens as well as the entire firm would like to congratulate the Partner in charge of the department, Krystle Wolthers, for achieving the fantastic accolade of Accredited Specialist in Wills & Estates Law in 2023!
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