Appointing an executor – an honour or a millstone?

By Noel Finck - October 2, 2017

Leaving behind your loved ones can be emotional and traumatic for both you and them.

So, considering how you wish your legacy to be administered, and ensuring it is done to your wishes, means choosing the right executor. You might consider:

  1. Appointing more than one, make sure they get along or can work together (will it impact their long term relationship?). If only one executor, make sure there is an alternate named.
  2. Consider if an elderly spouse or friend has the time, skills and desire to be your executor, especially for what are increasingly complex estates.
  3. Don’t underestimate what is involved in acting as executor, particularly if the Will contains long term trusts.
  4. Make sure your executor can also have a good working relationship with your beneficiaries.
  5. The executor has significant power to deal with cash and liquid assets (and of course, all other assets) and therefore must be honest and trustworthy and be able to act impartially. There may be a conflict if they are also a beneficiary.

Appointing someone independent such as a trusted advisor as executor and trustee ensures:

  • You have an experienced and independent party to carry out your wishes
  • You know that timeframes will be adhered to and legal and taxation obligations finalised


Jim and Marie had spent many happy years together, raising a family and accumulated significant wealth from running their business.

Option 1 - When Jim was having his Will prepared, he thought it would be a good idea for his eldest child, Julie, to be his executor – Julie was a very successful lawyer and had recently been transferred to London for two years. She had a family of her own and was very busy without the added pressure of administering her father’s estate from the other side of the world.

Option 2 - When Jim was having his Will prepared, he thought it would be a good idea for his wife, Marie, to be his executor and trustee – Jim has investments in many areas – shares and managed funds, properties here and interstate (and the apartment in Paris) and a rare car collection. Jim wanted to provide for his grandchildren until they turned 25 and had set up testamentary trusts. The result was that Marie was overwhelmed at a time when she herself was needing additional support.

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