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Duties of an Estate Executor

Janice Yew | October 21st, 2015

Are you an executor of a will? Are you aware of your rights and responsibilities and how to fulfil them? Are you aware of the consequences of breaching your obligations?

A personal representative of an estate gives effect to the deceased’s final wishes as set out in the will. In doing so, the executor is required to act in the best interests of the estate, and may need to seek financial and/or legal advice to fulfil this duty. Whilst it is the executor’s duty to defend the will, the beneficiaries of the will also have an interest in it and may intervene in certain situations.

For example, beneficiaries may wish to seek legal advice or separate representation if and when:

  • there is a conflict of interest involving the executor;
  • the executor is not defending or protecting the will;
  • the executor is taking a personal benefit not stipulated by the will; or
  • the executor has prematurely distributed the deceased’s estate.

In the 2005 Western Australian case of Wendt v Orr it was emphasised that where an executor has acted in a manner that would constitute a breach of trust, that executor will not hold protection against the estate for the costs incurred as a result of any litigation. This means that estate executors can be held personally liable for their actions if those actions constitute a breach of trust.

If you are involved in the distribution of an estate, whether as an executor or as a beneficiary, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities. mdp has a wealth of experience in handling complex estate matters and can assist you with any queries or concerns you may have. To arrange an initial consultation, contact mdp on 03 9620 9660.

This article is intended to be a guide only, and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Janice Yew

Janice Yew

Lawyer, BCom JD at mdp
Janice joined mdp in 2013 as a law clerk while completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne. In 2015, she came onboard full-time as a law graduate, and started working in the firm’s property, commercial and intellectual property practices.
Janice Yew

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