The Role of an Executor

Your loved one or a trusted friend has passed away, and you are told that you are the executor of their will – what does that mean?

What is an executor?

An executor is the person or persons nominated in a will to administer someone’s estate after they die.

An executor’s role begins as soon as the person dies. They must locate the will and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries and carry out any special wishes of the deceased person.

To carry out the terms of the will, it may be necessary for an executor to apply for probate which is the court’s official recognition that the will is legally valid and that the appointed executor is authorised to manage the deceased person’s estate. The law in each state of Australia sets out the process for obtaining an order for probate to enable you to deal with the estate’s assets.

Establishing what is in the estate

From the paperwork available, the executor must contact all debtors and creditors and ascertain what debts exist and what is owed to the deceased person. Often this involves writing to banks, the tax office and taking control of any physical assets.


An executor is responsible for managing the deceased’s outstanding obligations until the estate is finalised. This may include redirecting mail, ensuring the funeral is paid for and insuring assets.

They are also responsible for submitting the deceased’s final tax return and accounting to the beneficiaries for the sale of any assets in accordance with the will.

What if I don’t want to be an executor?

Executing a will and administering an estate can be a complex and complicated process so it generally a good idea to consult a solicitor to seek advice. If the burden of taking on the role of an executor is too great, you can pass that responsibility on to another person or a trustee organisation.

DSS Law’s Wills & Estates team have vast experience assisting clients with administering estates and advising executors and beneficiaries.

DSS Law insight articles are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. If you would like specific advice relating to this topic, please contact DSS Law on