What is an executor?

As an executor, you have some very important responsibilities. In summary, it is the role of the executor to manage the financial affairs of the deceased person from the time of their death until the assets are distributed in accordance with their will.

How many executors are there?

You might be appointed as the sole executor, or ther may be other people appointed jointly with you.

Is there a reading of the will

Generally not. We've written about this further in the article When is there a reading of the Will?.

As an executor, what do I do immediately upon the death of the willmaker?

The tasks of an executor are varied. This list can be worked through as needed and ask for help where you can.

  • Organise the funeral (involving discussion with other family members), and liaise with the funeral director regarding payment of the funeral account.
  • Confirm that the funeral director has notified Centrelink of the death.
  • Obtain the death certificate
  • Locate the last Will
  • Ensure home and cars are locked securely.
  • Contact home and contents insurance providers if possible and advise home is unoccupied.
  • Ensure cars remain registered and insured, however try to avoid driving cars unless absolutely necessary.
  • Clean out the fridge, turn off power points, mow lawns and other similar household jobs.
  • Deal with day to day tasks, such as:
    • Collecting mail and advise sender of the death;
    • Once you have the death certificate you can arrange for mail to be redirected to you
    • If bills are received, then notifying sender that account will be paid once funds are received for the Estate (keep a list of any outstanding accounts);
    • Once the death certificate and Will arrives, then redirecting mail;
    • Contacting service providers (telephone, mobile phone, internet, pay tv, ambulance subscription) to notify them of the death, and cancelling services if required;
    • Arranging for any pets to be cared for;
    • If guns were owned, locate keys to safe and relocate guns to a gun dealer to securely hold.
    • Manage deceased’s email and social media accounts
    • Cancel online subscriptions eg. Netflix
  • Call aged care facility if applicable and make arrangements to collect all personal items.
  • Gather paperwork relevant to the estate
    • Property title details
    • Bank statements
    • Bank books
    • Mortgage statements
    • Credit card statements
    • Documents regarding shares
    • Documents regarding life insurance
    • House, contents, car and other insurance
    • Medical and other bills
    • Documents regarding aged care arrangements including accommodation bonds
    • Most recent tax returns
    • Recent Centrelink correspondence
    • Superannuation statements
    • Recent pay slips

Your remaining responsibilities could include:

  • Working with a lawyer to obtain a Grant of Probate (if the assets require this).
  • Collecting the Estate assets (which may involve having them valued) and looking after them for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
  • Notifying the beneficiaries and keeping them updated throughout the whole process.
  • Ascertaining whether there were any debts or liabilities left, and if so, arranging payment.
  • Keeping records and accounts of the Estate assets and liabilities.
  • Seeking advice from an Accountant regarding any potential tax liability, or whether any personal or Estate tax returns are required.
  • Once all debts are paid, to distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the Will.

How long does my role as Executor last?

By the time all of your responsibilities have been fulfilled and the Estate is finalised, 4-6 months may have elapsed, depending on the complexity of the Estate.

If the Estate involves property which needs to be sold, large share portfolios, unknown assets, or tax affairs which need to be completed for example, finalisation of the Estate could take considerably longer.


Our Will & Powers of Attorney team are able to answer any further questions you may have. Call 03 5445 1000 and ask to speak to someone.