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If you have been appointed Executor of someone’s Will, you have many obligations and responsibilities when that person passes away and your role as Executor commences. It’s a very responsible role being an Executor and if you do not act properly, you can be held personally liable for any cost or losses incurred by the estate. If you are looking for experienced probate lawyers Brisbane, wills and estates specialist Little Estate Lawyers can provide the advice and support you need.

The complexity of your role and responsibilities depends on the what assets and liabilities the estate has, and if any claims have been brought against the estate. You may even find yourself in a situation where there are insufficient assets in the estate to pay the liabilities and consequently, have an insolvent estate.

At a basic level, your responsibilities are:

  • Gain an understanding of the assets and liabilities in the estate. This will involve going through the deceased’s personal items and papers thoroughly to locate any bank statements, tax returns, superannuation information, outstanding bills and so on
  • If necessary, obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. Among other things, this involves an application to the Supreme Court
  • Call in all the assets of the estate. Through your search of the deceased’s personal items and papers, you will hopefully have a full understanding of all assets and liabilities
  • Pay all testamentary expenses and other estate expenses. This involves ensuring funeral expenses are paid, legal costs incurred in dealing with the estate, rates, phone bills and any other outstanding debts or expenses
  • Distribute the balance of the estate to the beneficiaries as soon as possible without any unnecessary delay. However, not prior to the expiration of limitation periods that relate to any potential claims against the estate. If there is a Will, you need to distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will. Where there is no Will, you need to distribute the estate in accordance with the relevant intestacy provisions.

As you can see from the basic matters above, there is a lot to be considered. We haven’t touched on estate tax issues to be mindful of and the responsibilities involved but will say this … if you are an Executor, seek the assistance of a reputable Probate Lawyer.

When a deceased estate is not dealt with properly, it can result in significant consequences. A couple of examples that spring to mind are:

  • If there is a property that needs to be sold and it’s not sold within 2 years from the date of death, you may trigger a capital gains tax event
  • In a solvent estate, if you do not pay beneficiaries correctly, you may be held personally liable for the error

A good example of how important it is to identify ALL of the deceased’s assets was the story reported recently about a property developer who took possession of a house after an elderly woman passed away. He changed the locks, renovated the property and rented it out for almost 20 years. The NSW Supreme Court granted him ownership. While the claim was to do with land rights, it is a timely reminder in estate matters to do all necessary investigations to try and locate estate assets. The elderly lady did not have a Will and intestacy laws would have applied to the distribution of her estate prioritising her family members in a specific order. That asset is now lost and will not go to the entitled beneficiary or beneficiaries.

Man who discovered empty house now legally owns it:

As an Executor or Administrator of an estate, you are better protected when you engage a competent Probate Lawyer who can advise and assist you with your responsibilities in dealing with an estate. Contact Brisbane-based Little Estate Lawyers today to find out more.