What happens when an executor dies?

Published 03 Feb 2016

Author: Richele Nelsen

Managing the distribution of someone's estate in the wake of their death can be a complicated process. Not only do people need to recover from the stress of losing a loved one, the pressure of being an executor for a will can add an extra - often undesired - challenge.

This process is made even more difficult when people decide to contest a will. In some cases however, such as when an executor dies, consulting experienced lawyers and pursuing the case is the best way to ensure people get what the original will intended.

What is an executor?

In the event of a person's passing, the executor is one of the most important people, and their role is essential to ensuring the beneficiaries selected by the will receive the assets the deceased intended.

An executor is the person in charge of distributing the deceased's estate in accordance with their will. This involves ensuring all beneficiaries are contacted, as well applying for a grant of probate so the will is legally recognised.

Finally, an executor must prepare all assets for distribution as described in the will. If anything happens to these individuals, it can create notable difficulties for the distribution of an estate or result in a contesting wills claim.

What happens if an executor dies?

The process people will need to follow in these events depends on when an executor passes away. In the case of extremely old wills, it may be the case that an executor dies before the testator.

In these instances, the court will appoint an administrator. This is usually the beneficiary who is set to receive the largest portion of the deceased's estate. If the person the court nominates is unfit for the executor role, or unwilling to perform it, it could result in further legal disputes to ensure the remaining beneficiaries receive the assets the deceased intended them to.

For situations where the executor dies shortly after the testator, their executor will assume the same role for both people who passed away. However, this is assuming the deceased executor was able to successfully obtain a grant of probate before passing.

These cases also illustrate the value in selecting more than one executor to manage an estate.

If you have more questions about the contesting wills process, contact the team at Gerard Malouf and Partners.

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