Choosing executors for your will

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An executor is ultimately responsible for carrying out the terms of your Will and ensuring your estate is distributed efficiently. An executor has a range of legal responsibilities including disposing of the body, making funeral arrangements, representing the estate if an estate claim is made and general estate administration.  For detailed information on the role and responsibilities of executors see Do you understand your role and responsibilities as an executor? Being an executor can be a demanding job and although they can get help from a lawyer or an accountant, it may not necessarily be the person closest to you who would be the best fit for the role.

Who can I choose to be my executor? 

-       Any person over the age of 18 at your death and of sound mind.

-       A relative or a friend.

-       An independent body such as a law firm or trustee company  

-       An independent person such as a lawyer or accountant

Can an executor also be a beneficiary of my will?
Yes, your executor can be a beneficiary of the will.

Can I select more than one executor? 
Yes, you can either select one executor or two or more executors to work together. It is a good idea to choose an alternative executor or executors who take on the role only if your original executor was unable to perform their role. An alternative is particularly important if you have only one executor, especially where that executor is your spouse or a similar age to you.

Some questions to ask yourself when choosing your executor  

-       Do you trust the person to make prudent decisions for the benefit of your estate? Will they know when to hold on to a property and when to sell it?

-       If the person is not inheriting under the Will (i.e. a family friend) what is the incentive to them to complete the work, often during business hours?

-       If choosing one or some of your family members, how will the ones not chosen react?

-       Where are the executors based? Being an executor requires many meetings and documents to be signed at different points during the estate administration – this can be difficult if they live far away. 

How can I help make my executor’s job easier?  

-       Having a well drafted, up to date Will that clearly communicates how you would like your estate to be distributed.

-       Ensuring your executor(s) know they are executors and where to obtain a copy of your will.

-       Informing your executor of any funeral arrangements or other considerations which may help them perform their role. 

Everyone is different so selecting an executor will depend on the nature of your estate, your family dynamics and any other values you deem to be important. 

If you would like to draft a will, or need some guidance as to who you should choose as your executor contact experienced solicitor, Carolyn Ranson by phone on 09 837 6891 or email carolyn.ranson@smithpartners.co.nz

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