Choosing an executor (or executors) is an important part of estate planning. Claire has put together this guide to help will-makers step through the sorts of things that should be considered.
WHAT DOES THE ROLE OF EXECUTOR INCLUDE?
Understanding the role of the executor may help you decide who would best suit this role in a particular situation.
In general terms, the role of executor includes:
• Organising the funeral
• Applying for grant of probate from the court (depending on the deceased’s assets)
• Identifying, securing and collecting in the deceased’s assets
• Paying expenses and liabilities
• Distributing or otherwise managing assets in accordance with the deceased’s Will. If the executor is also the trustee (see below for further guidance), this may include holding and managing assets/funds on trust (e.g. a life interest trust, or trust for a minor beneficiary)
• Accounting to beneficiaries for funds collected, payments made etc
• Attending to final tax matters for the deceased, and estate tax compliance
• Dealing with claims/potential claims
• Contacting the deceased’s banks, insurers, share registries, KiwiSaver provider, utilities providers etc. so that the relevant accounts can be closed and dealt with
• Exercising powers of appointment (often power of appointment of trustees) where the deceased was the settlor or otherwise held powers in connection with a family trust.
• In some cases the executors also have to help manage and resolve family tensions that often rise to the surface on death.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE QUALITIES YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR IN AN EXECUTOR?
• The will maker trusts, and who has the skill set to deal with the role (e.g. well organised, dependable, good with paperwork)
• Who is capable of engaging with and instructing lawyers and other professionals whose help may be required in connection with the administration of the estate
• Who is not too old/likely to die before the will maker
• Who is likely to be available and have the time/capacity to deal with it following the will maker’s death – preferably someone who lives in the place where the will maker lives, or at least in New Zealand
• Who is not likely to go overseas, or be hard to track down following the will maker’s death
WHO WOULD COMMONLY BE APPOINTED AS EXECUTOR?
• Spouse or partner
• Parents (for younger people)
• Children (for older people)
• Trusted family friends
• Trusted professional advisors – lawyer and/or accountant
• Trustee company e.g. Public Trust or Perpetual Guardian
HOW MANY EXECUTORS SHOULD BE APPOINTED?
It’s worth thinking about appointing two or more executors, particularly where there are ongoing trusts. However, you don’t want too many people involved – more than 3 would be unusual and 2 would be more common.
It’s also worth naming alternates or back-ups – people to act if the first named person/people can’t. This might be especially important if your original executors are the same age or older than you.