Estate planning

Writing a Will? What you need to know about choosing an executor in Australia

Sep 11, 2023
Your choice of executor can impact how your wishes are honoured. Image source: Getty

We all understand the importance of writing a Will, but choosing the right person to be the executor of your Will is just as an important decision.

This is because executor manages your estate when you pass away, ensuring your last wishes are put into action. For some, being appointed as an executor is an honour but for many, it can be a confusing and stressful process, especially when you don’t fully understand what’s involved.

If you’re in the process of choosing an executor in Australia or have been asked to be one, here are a few things to consider first.

What does an executor do?

An executor can be a family member, friend, lawyer or other professional, or a trustee company such as State Trustees, who carries out the provisions of your Will – including any financial and legal affairs.

Some of their responsibilities include ensuring all assets are accounted for, all debts are paid, and that all beneficiaries receive their inheritance as per your Will. And the reality is it can be quite a complicated and overwhelming process, which is why it’s important to pick a person or an organisation like State Trustees who has the technical expertise, financial experience, and time to manage complex legal matters for you.

Tasks you may be required to do as an executor include:

  1. Applying for a grant of probate
  2. Paying any outstanding bills or debts
  3. Lodging tax returns
  4. Finding and contacting beneficiaries
  5. Gathering and protecting assets
  6. Dealing with any claims
  7. Distributing the estate

Who should you appoint as an executor to your Will in Australia?

Anyone above the age of 18 can act as an executor of your Will. However, there’s a lot to consider beforehand. For example, is the person you are thinking of both willing and able to confidently carry out the tasks? Will they have the skills and time to manage all the legal and financial matters?

If you have a larger, complex estate with a variety of assets and liabilities, or you don’t have a suitable person in your life, you may get more peace of mind by appointing a lawyer or a trustee company such as State Trustees to be your executor.

You can name more than one executor as a precaution against the possibility that you outlive your first choice, or that your first choice is unable to take the task on when the time comes. If you are planning on appointing more than one executor, then it’s important to consider how disputes will be handled if there is a disagreement while administering your estate.

Appointing a professional executor

If you are worried things could turn sour between family and friends after reading your Will, consider choosing a professional executor. This could be particularly beneficial if you’re looking for a more ‘neutral’ person to manage your estate. Appointing a professional can help alleviate stress on loved ones and avoid problems if family members are unhappy with the terms.

A professional executor’s responsibility is to act objectively and in line with your wishes. Did you know that State Trustees administers more deceased estates than any other organisation in Victoria? With in-depth knowledge of estate laws, organisations like State Trustees can work with authorities across different jurisdictions and even help track down family members to ensure your wishes are followed through. With an understanding that every situation is unique, you can rely on an experienced team of professionals to help make a real difference.

What are the next steps?

While none of us want to give too much thought to our own mortality, having conversations about your plans for the future, including your Will and estate and getting your affairs in order in advance, can make it easier for those you leave behind.

Creating a Will that reflects your wishes doesn’t have to be hard. State Trustees is here to help you produce a clear and valid will. There are three easy will options to choose from depending on your circumstances.

  1. Will Kit: Print and complete at home $39
  2. Online Will: Complete online, print and sign $69
  3. Will appointment: Meet with an expert from $264*

Compare will options here

*Price based on 20% discount for singles concession card holders (Will Appointment only). For more savings and discounts, refer to our fees page.

When to update your will

To make sure your children and grandchildren are protected, you should review and make changes to your will whenever your life situation changes.

State Trustees has a free guide that explains when and how to update your will.

Inside you’ll learn: 

  • 8 life events that trigger a will review.
  • What happens without a valid will.
  • How to update your will from home, online or in-person.
  • Plus, a mini glossary of legal terms you can refer to.

Download free here.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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