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Picking an Executor

One of the first decisions you make when writing your Will is to choose who you will appoint as executor. The executor will hold, manage and distribute your assets after your death, according to your wishes. It is important to understand your executor is the person who will need to:

  • deal with your loved ones during what will be a difficult time in their lives. Before picking anyone as an executor you should first be sure they are prepared and equipped to take on that responsibility after your death (which could be many years down the line);
  • be aware of the legal responsibilities and have an understanding of accounting, business and taxation matters. The duties of an executor are difficult, demanding and time consuming and they are personally liable for mistakes (e.g. distributing the assets before probate is granted, failing to pay debts and not insuring assets).
  • still be young and capable enough to do all of this should you live for a long time after making your Will. Be cautious about choosing someone who is older than you.

So firstly, “Who can be my executor?”

You may name one or more people to act as executor and in New Zealand they must be over 20. In most cases, an executor will require legal or other professional representation or advice which of course may require costs and liabilities to the estate. Some of the options are:

  • your partner – keep in mind that following your death, it will be a difficult time in their life;
  • family members or friends – may also be grieving and often struggle in remaining objective. They will need to call on the help of lawyers and accountants;
  • lawyers and/or accountants - professionals will charge on a time basis to administer your estate and will age as you do and retire;
  • Perpetual Guardian – in contrast to individuals or lawyers and accountants, we don’t age as they do. See below for more on why you would choose us as your expert executor.

Secondly, “What will my executor need to do?”

This is a significant role. Your executor has the legal responsibility to ensure the terms of your Will are carried out. These duties will likely include:

  • organising the funeral wishes;
  • filing for probate with the High Court;
  • working out who the beneficiaries and perceived beneficiaries are;
  • handling Inland Revenue formalities;
  • dealing with claims against the estate – both legal and financial;
  • looking after the estate. Distribution of assets as instructed by the terms of the Will. Ensuring all assets are secured and protected through insurance if necessary;
  • understanding that the beneficiaries’ needs are to be protected against any avoidable financial hardship and what to do;
  • holding assets in trust for a time (for example, if a beneficiary is underage);
  • selling of assets e.g. to cover debts or to distribute the estate; and
  • transferring ownership to beneficiaries as per the Will.

It is very important to note: The law requires the executor to hold on to estate distributions for six months after the grant of Probate or Letters of Administration and they cannot pay anything out to the beneficiaries before this time is up without being personally liable If an executor has distributed any assets within this time and there is subsequently a successful claim, they may be required to pay that claim personally.

Lastly, “Why would I appoint Perpetual Guardian as executor?”

The choice of executor is an important one. It is a choice which you make but the impact of it falls on your loved ones when you are not around. Our role is to fulfil on your wishes as stated in your Will and make things easier for them at this difficult time. By choosing us as executor your beneficiaries get the right help and advice together with the following benefits:

  • our friendly and experienced dedicated Client Manager will listen to and consult with your loved ones and work hard to ensure the smooth transition of your estate;
  • our estate management plan is an open and transparent process outlining how and when things will happen and how much it will cost. Yes, we charge for our services, but unless your executor has all the necessary legal, financial and other skills as well as lots of spare time, they are going to need to pay for professional help;
  • all work is done in house – administering the estate, dealing with all legal, tax and financial requirements, and regular reporting to the beneficiaries. This means a co-ordinated approach between professionals and everyone is always informed;
  • we have the ability to administer your estate quickly because of our experience and the special legal privileges given to trustee companies. So the process is over as quickly as possible;
  • sadly families often fall apart over money, we act impartially so will work in accordance with your wishes as stated in your Will and are not influenced by interested parties who may have their own agendas. This helps to avoid the conflicts which often arise between grieving family members over money or perhaps a favourite family heirloom.
  • we can work in partnership with an advisory trustee of your choosing, perhaps a family member or friend;
  • as a trustee company, we exist in perpetuity. This means we will be there when the time comes to administer your estate – which may not be true of a lawyer, family member or friend, who like you will age or perhaps lose their capacity, or retire. Let’s face it we have been around since 1882; and
  • we have access to various international agencies, allowing for faster administration of overseas assets.

In summary, it is essential your executor can not only be trusted to carry out your wishes but also have the required experience, time and skills necessary to do so. Our team at Perpetual Guardian tick all the boxes. You should also store your Will and other important documents securely online so there is easy access by those who need it. myDigital Vault is Perpetual Guardian’s secure online storage facility that you get with our WILLplus service, one of it’s benefits means you can share secure access with anyone you like, like the executor of your Will.

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    Perpetual Guardian is a trading name of The New Zealand Guardian Trust Company Limited and Perpetual Trust Limited. For Authorised Financial Advisers, a disclosure statement is available upon request and free of charge.