The Responsibilities As An Executor Of Will

The Responsibilities As An Executor Of Will

When someone close to you passes away there is more you need to do besides or as well as come to terms with their passing. You also have to be ready (or not so ready if you’re anything like me.) for the onslaught of practical decisions and the legal or logistical side of crossing over and maybe the dumb shit people say, but that’s a whole other post.

How to be an executor of a will?

What to do as an executor of a will?

Understanding The Grant Of Probate and how to navigate your way through solicitors as an executor. 

How to pick WHO is the best person to be the executor of your will?

For those of you who are the executors of the will and the person who is responsible for carrying out the final wishes of your loved one, this is for you. It’s the information I wish I had when Mum passed away. Please keep in mind that this information is relevant to NSW Australia and some things will vary from state to state, and will definitely vary from country to country, however it will still be a great guide all the same.

*Disclaimer: I am speaking from my own experience and please seek advice where needed. There is so much you need to do and so many little things that will make it easier for you, some are obvious and others I would never have thought of. It is outlined in funeral arrangements, grant of probate and solicitor’s and handy things to know. 

There are the funeral arrangements, however there is also “the estate” that need will need your attention, and by “the estate” it means everything the deceased owned, shares, superannuation, house and contents and any investments.

For this you will need a solicitor and if your loved one had a will chances are the solicitor will have a copy of their will.

First, let’s discuss the funeral arrangements. 

  1. You need to contact a funeral director and they will guide you, but some things you need to know or think about are…
  • Will it be a burial or cremation?
  • That decision will take you on a unique course, which the funeral director will guide you through.
  • The funeral director also arranges the transfer of the body, if needed. An ad in the local newspaper and the logistics of the funeral, however you’ll have to make decisions on the music, the service, the wake, the coffin etc… (This happens immediately after the passing so there isn’t much time to really process, so my biggest advice is, breathe and trust that your loved one chose you for a reason and that was because they knew you would honour their final wishes… in fact this is great to remember through out this entire process!)
  • Something that might be useful is, knowing that the funeral director is also responsible for organising the death certificate. This takes around 3 months and in my experience you may need to follow this up, because it’s often after they get paid, it’s easy for them to forget and it’s not a priority, but it will be a priority for you because you can’t process and finalise the estate until you have it. You can always call Births, Deaths and Marriages directly and ask them, that’s what I did because otherwise I’d still be waiting.
  • In terms of payment, if your loved one hasn’t arranged and paid for their funeral you can arrange it to come out of the estate or their bank account, your solicitor can arrange this.
  • Another handy thing to know is if your loved one has already “bought” the burial site, know that in a lot of towns this payment to council has reserved it and not bought it, so you will still have to pay for it when the time comes.
  • If you have balloons you may need aviation approval.
  • You will need to know how many service booklets to print. It’s a guess and we didn’t print enough, but it’s a hard one to know.
  • Ask for help from family and friends to bring a plate or sweets to the wake, most are more than happy to do that and some will offer, so don’t feel like you have to do everything.
  • Contact a stonemason to arrange the plaque, tombstone or whatever you’re loved one is getting. This takes around 6 to 8 weeks to make.

Now let’s get into the practical, legal and logistical side of death as an executor of a will. You are about to enter into a whole new side of things that nothing can prepare you for it, so it is my aim that this information will ease it for you!

  • I knew who’s Mum solicitor was, so it was just a matter of calling and arranging a meeting.
  • It is VERY handy to know that you CAN change solicitor if you feel to, there is no obligation for them to carry out the grant of probate. I WISH I knew this because Mum’s solicitor has been less than ideal and a complete rip off.
  • Before the solicitor does ANY work they must (or they are supposed to) give you an itemised (not just a breakdown) outline of the scope of works and the cost. You must sign it before any work is carried out. Another thing I really wish I had known!
  • Costs do vary, however for a straightforward/ basic estate expect to pay around AU$4000 to $5000, anything more question it! If they charge you a % of the estate total worth, this is illegal in Victoria and NSW (I don’t know about other states, it’s worth finding out.)
  • The solicitor will take you through the will and address everything that needs to happen and you must adhere to that. This will take everyone on a different journey, however there are things that will be the same.
  • All accounts will be frozen and the solicitor has access to them, and can make payments on your/ your loved one’s behalf.
  • The first thing that really needs to happen is the “grant of probate”

grant of probate is a legal document that authorises an executor (or executors) to manage the estate of a deceased person in accordance with the provisions of the deceased’s will.

  • This takes time, so be patient, lots of documents to sign and lots of liaising with the solicitor.
  • You will also have to take a verbal oath in front of a Justice of the Peace (JP) and this is something that I wasn’t expecting and it was really hard. (For me, you might be different.)
  • Once the death certificate has come through the Supreme Court has to process it and from there everything is in your name as the executor.
  • From here the distribution can begin based on the terms of the will.

Helpful and handy things to know.

  • Keep all receipts for expenses you have paid, insurance, bills, wake costs etc.
  • You can’t please everyone so at the end of the day my intention was to respect and honour Mum’s final wishes and see them through in a way that she would have wanted.
  • It’s easy to get caught up in this element of their passing, but a huge lesson for me was to surrender control and put me first. Finding the balance between not giving a shit and wanting it to be over or obsessing about it so much you can’t think about anything else.
  • Still grieve, try not to let this take away from your own processing. (This was the hardest for me)
  • Remember that everyone is grieving and as the executor you’re in the firing line, stay true to you and try to have love for those around you who might be struggling with it, but have boundaries at the same time.
  • Know what you’re willing to let slide and what you want to speak up about.
  • Any insurance policy’s that aren’t tired to super funds don’t have to pay tax.
  • Speak to their insurance company ASAP to ensure their property still has cover.
  • I emailed places that usually go to off shore call centre’s, I emailed asking for direct contacts within Australia to call. This avoided conversations that I didn’t have the time or energy to have.
  • You may need to cut off utility’s, phones etc and you’ll need a letter that states you’re the executor of the will from your solicitor.


If by chance you are reading this because you’re thinking about who will be the executor of your will. My advice-

  • Think very wisely about this because the resilience, time, energy, emotional intelligence and the ability to put your own opinions/ thoughts/ wishes aside and do what YOU want takes extreme self-awareness, strength and selflessness.
  • If you have a large family it was recommended to us that you have more than one, but not all. (More so if it’s your kids)
  • If they are someone who doesn’t handle stress well, doesn’t communicate well, is entitled or likely to not take everyone into consideration beyond themselves, THIS IS NOT YOUR PERSON.
  • Give them as much information as possible, your solicitor, which bank your with, which insurance company your with, super and your wishes for your service/ funeral. The more details the better.

I am sure there many more things, but I hope this will help you in your own journey. You also might enjoy Grief and Listening To the Pain.