Appointing Executors, Co-Executors and Alternate Executors
One of the most important decisions you will make when creating your Will is who to appoint as your Executor. Your Executor is the person you appoint to administer your estate and implement your wishes after you die.
Things to consider when appointing an Executor include:
- Do you trust that they will implement your wishes? If you don’t trust the person you shouldn’t appoint them.
- Are they competent and capable of administering your estate? If they don’t have the expertise to understand their duties and your estate it’s probably best not to appoint them.
- Are they likely to outlive you? If they are older than you and likely to die before you do it’s probably best not to appoint them.
- Do they live in the same state or territory as you? If they liver overseas or in another state or territory it may slow down the administration of your estate and be difficult.
Who can be an Executor?
There are three main options to consider in appointing an Executor:
- A family member or friend
- A professional such as your accountant or solicitor
- A trustee company
Any person you appoint as your Executor must be at least 18 years of age to act as your Executor.
Appointing a family member or friend
For most people in a long-term relationship a practical option is to appoint their spouse or partner as their Executor. A spouse or partner is likely to be someone you trust, they are likely to understand your estate and they are also likely to be the main beneficiary of your Will. This option is also cheap as it’s unlikely that a friend or family member will charge a fee for their services.
If any of these circumstances do not apply you should consider other options.
The main disadvantages of appointing a family member include:
- A friend or family member may not have the expertise or time to administer your estate
- If you have a complex family structure appointing a family member may lead to tension or conflict within the family
Appointing a professional such as an accountant or solicitor
If you have complex personal or financial circumstances you might consider appointing an accountant or solicitor as your executor. An accountant or solicitor is likely to have the expertise to administer your estate, may understand your personal and financial circumstances if you have already dealt with them, they will be able to act independently of the beneficiaries of your estate and they should have the time to do the work (because you’ll be paying them to do it).
The main disadvantages of appointing an accountant or solicitor as your executor is the likely cost.
Appointing a trustee company as your executor
There are businesses set up to be professional executors. The advantages of appointing a trustee company as your executor are similar to those of appointing an accountant or a solicitor – they will have the expertise to administer your estate, they will be able to act independently of the beneficiaries of your estate and they should have the time to do the work (because you’ll be paying them to do it).
The main disadvantages of appointing a trustee company as your executor is the cost.
Appointing more than one executor
You can appoint more than one executor. If you appoint more than 1 executor in the Money Lab app we refer to the executors as Co-Executors.
Some states and territories impose a limit of 4 executors (which is the limit we have chosen to adopt in the Money Lab app).
The advantages of appointing more than 1 executor are:
- Executors can work together to support each other and share the load of administering the estate
- Different executors may have expertise in different areas of the estate and together they can provide all the expertise required
- If one of the Executors you appoint dies before you or is unable or unwilling to act as Executor the other Executor(s) can which provides some level of resilience to your Will
The disadvantages of appointing more than 1 executor arise when the executors don’t get along and tension or conflict develops. Administering the estate can be difficult when executors disagree. This can result in lengthy delays and expensive litigation.
Appointing Alternate Executors
You can also appoint one or more Alternate Executors. Alternate Executors are appointed if the Executors you appoint die before you or are unwilling or unable to act as your Executor.
Appointing Alternate Executors adds some resilience to your Will.
In appointing Alternate Executors you should consider all the same requirements, issues, advantages and disadvantages of appointing Executors.
When should you review or reconsider your Executor(s)
It’s important to review your entire Will periodically to make sure that it still reflects your wishes. There are some circumstances that will require you to specifically review or reconsider your Executor(s). These include:
- If an Executor dies before you – consider appointing another person as Executor to replace them
- If an Executor loses mental capacity – consider appointing another person as Executor to replace them
- If your relationship status changes – such as getting married or divorced – see below for details
What happens to my Will if I get married or enter into a civil relationship
Generally, getting married or entering into a civil relationship will revoke or cancel a Will that was made previously.
There are some exceptions to this general principle, the main one being that in some states and territories a Will made in contemplation of marriage or entering into a civil relationship may remain valid. You should seek legal advice or check the exact nature of these exceptions in your state or territory if this is relevant to you.
If in doubt, update your Will to make sure it reflects your wishes after you get married or enter into a civil relationship.
What happens to my Will if I get Divorced or Separate?
The affect that divorce has on your Will varies by state and territory. In some states it will revoke or cancel a Will that was made previously. In some states it will revoke the appointment of your ex-spouse as Executor and/or Beneficiary in your Will.
You should seek legal advice or check the rules that apply in your state or territory if this is relevant to you.
If in doubt, update your Will to make sure it reflects your wishes after you get divorced.
It is also important to consider the impact of marriage separation. Unlike divorce, this will not change the way your Will operates. Generally, if you are separated, die and haven’t changed your Will, any appointment of your Spouse or property you’ve left them will continue to operate.
If in doubt, update your Will when you separate to make sure it reflects your wishes.
The content of this page and any related or linked pages is provided for information purposes only. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be used as such. If you require legal advice or are uncertain about any of the issues discussed on this page you should seek legal advice from a qualified legal practitioner. You can contact a lawyer through the Law Society or equivalent in your State or Territory. Money Lab also provides referral details for a limited set of legal practitioners in the Sort My Affairs feature in the Money Lab app.
The information contained in this page and any related or linked pages has been formulated with all due care, but Money Lab does not accept any liability to any person for the information (or the use of such information). The information is provided on the basis that users take responsibility for determining its accuracy and relevance to their circumstances.
This page was last updated on 22 March 2021