As an estate executor of a will, are you aware of your rights and responsibilities and how to fulfil them? More importantly, do you know the consequences of breaching your obligations?
What is the role of an estate executor?
An estate executor is a personal representative of an estate who gives effect to the deceased’s final wishes as set out in the will.
The executor is required to act in the best interests of the estate and may need to seek financial or legal advice to fulfil this duty. While 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.
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In the 2005 Western Australian case of Wendt v Orr, where an executor has acted in a manner that would constitute a breach of trust, this executor will not hold protection against the estate for the costs incurred as a result of any litigation. This ruling means that estate executors can be held personally liable for their actions if those actions constitute a breach of trust.
What are the consequences for breaching your obligations?
If you are involved in the distribution of an estate, whether as an executor or as a beneficiary, it is of the utmost importance that you fully understand your rights and responsibilities.
Talk to our specialist team for estate and succession planning in Melbourne. We can guide you through our approach and how we can grow your business.