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The role of the executor

Often when you are asked to be the executor of a will, you accept the role without truly knowing its parameters. While not wishing to deter anyone from accepting the responsibility to carry out this very important role, you must understand what it entails. When a member of the family or a close friend asks you to be the executor of his or her will, you should seek some legal advice before you say yes.

Often the words ‘executor and trustee’ of the will are included together. The roles are often combined these days, with the trustee aspect relating to any testamentary trust set up under the will. For example, if a child under 20 receives a distribution under a will, he or she must wait until the specified age before receipt of such distribution. In the meantime, the executor oversees both the investment of those funds and how access may be affected based on the terms of the will.

The executor works closely with the lawyer for the estate of the deceased to co-ordinate all aspects of the wishes as set out in the will. These jobs include: organising and accepting responsibility for the funeral; the obtaining of Probate (which is a court document confirming to the world at large that the executor stands in the shoes of the deceased); the distribution of chattels and cars; the itemising of all assets and liabilities of the estate; the investigation of any issue that arises as a result of that itemising; the transfer and distribution of all property and cash and other investments once known; together with the closing off of all matters ending with a final tax return for the estate.

While your lawyer helps with every step of the way, it is your role as executor that ensures a life well lived is recorded and signed off appropriately.

All the information published [above] is not a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this article

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