The Role of Executor

Learn more about the duties of an executor and how to fulfil the role

Last updated: 28 November 2016

What is an executor of a will?

An executor is a person appointed to oversee the management of an estate. They are usually named in the will of the person who has died. In most cases, this role is taken by a close family member or friend.

Before any of the estate can be divided, however, probate needs to be granted to the executor so they can legally conduct their duties.

What does an executor do?

Below are some of the most common responsibilities associated with being an executor or administrator of an estate:

  • Notify beneficiaries of the will
  • Manage the estate and protect all assets from damage
  • Value the estate and create an inventory of property
  • Obtain probate
  • Ensure tax returns are complete and tax is paid
  • Ensure all the estate’s taxes are paid before assets are distributed to the beneficiaries
  • Distribute the estate in accordance with the will
  • Set up trusts for beneficiaries who are under 18, or if instructions to do so are outlined in the will

Renouncing the role of executor

If you have been identified as an executor in a loved one’s will and do not want to act in this role, you have the choice of renouncing the role. There is no legal obligation to act as an executor if you do not want to.

In order to relinquish the duties of an executor, you will have to complete the ‘Renunciation of Probate’ form and file it with the court. If possible you should do this before probate is granted, as it can be more difficult and time-consuming.

Removing an executor

If beneficiaries are dissatisfied with the actions of the executor, they can take steps to remove or substitute them. The beneficiary must apply to the court to have the executor removed.

Reasons for removing an executor include:

  • Fraudulent behaviour
  • Failing to administer the estate, either completely or in a timely manner
  • Conflict of interests

The court will judge the circumstances of each individual case to determine whether there is sufficient reason to remove an executor from their duties.

If you are a beneficiary and want to have the executor of the will removed, it is highly advised to consult a specialist lawyer, as the process can be complex.

Learn more about managing an estate.