How to Choose an Executor for Your Will

Article Nicolas Moore 29 May 2024

Choosing an executor for your will is an important step in the estate planning process.

An executor is responsible for managing your estate after your passing, ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, and addressing any legal and financial issues that may arise.  It can be a difficult task, particularly when dealing with a complex estate, large asset pool or multiple beneficiaries, which makes it even more important to choose the right person and to ensure that they have the support they need from a legal adviser.


Understanding the role of an executor

Before choosing someone to be your executor, it is important to understand the role.

An executor's duties can be complex and time-consuming and may include:

1. Applying for probate, which is the legal process of validating your will.

2. Collecting and managing the assets of the estate.

3. Paying any outstanding debts and taxes from the estate.

4. Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will.

5. Ensuring all actions comply with Australian law.


What are the key qualities to look for in an executor?

When selecting an executor, you might want to consider the following qualities:

  1. Trustworthiness – An executor should be someone you trust implicitly to carry out your wishes faithfully.
  2. Organisational skills - The role involves a lot of paperwork and deadlines and requires someone who will manage tasks effectively.
  3. Impartiality – An executor should be able to act fairly and without bias, especially if there are disputes among beneficiaries.  In some families this can be difficult.
  4. Financial acumen - While not mandatory, a basic understanding of finances can be beneficial.
  5. Availability -  An executor should have the time and willingness to take on the responsibilities involved.


Who are the most common choices for executors?

In the majority of estates, people that are asked to act in the role of executor include:

  • Family members- often people choose a spouse, adult child, or other close relative. While this is convenient, and family members are usually more familiar with your wishes, they may also be dealing with their own grief which can make the role challenging.
  • Close Friends- a close and trusted friend can be a good choice, provided they possess the necessary qualities and are willing to take on the responsibility.
  • Professionals- some solicitors, accountants and professional trustee companies can also act as executors. This option is beneficial if your estate is complex. However, this option involves an additional costs.


What else should you consider?

Anyone can be appointed as an executor of a will if they are over 18 years of age and of sound mind.  It is generally advisable to appoint someone living in Australia, as handling an estate from overseas can be logistically challenging and may involve additional legal hurdles.

You can also choose to appoint more than one executor, which can be useful for sharing the workload and responsibilities. However, it is important to ensure that they can work well together to avoid conflicts or resentment. Alternatively, you can name a primary executor and a backup executor, in case the first is unable or unwilling to serve for any reason.

The suitability of your executor may also change over time; friendships change and evolve for example, or your executor may become ill, move overseas or not survive you. 

It is important to update your will periodically to ensure that it accurately reflects your wishes as your circumstances change. So at each update, we recommend that you take some time to review your choice of executor to ensure that they are the most appropriate person for the role.  Most importantly, you will need to discuss the role with the person of your choice and ensure that they understand their responsibilities and are willing to accept the role.


How can CDQ help?

Choosing the right executor for your will is very important.  When you make a will, the experienced lawyers at CDQ can discuss the roles and responsibilities of an executor with you.

To discuss your options, contact the team at CDQ on ph: 02 8556 0130.