The building blocks of your Estate Plan
Setting up your Will is one of the most important parts of a well-functioning Estate Plan.
And one of the first decisions you have to make when drafting a Will is who you want to be your executor. This is important because the executor is the person or organisation that deals with and supports your loved ones during a difficult time in their lives.
The executor must not only be aware of the legal obligations they’ll be taking on, but also have to be capable to meet the role’s responsibilities.
So what happens after you’re gone? Here we talk about some of the key aspects of estate administration.
What is Estate Administration?
In short, it’s the process of carrying out the wishes you lay out in your Will by making sure your estate is distributed effectively and to the right people.
Your estate is made up of all your assets –things like personal possessions, bank accounts, property, life insurance and KiwiSaver. It also includes funeral expenses, taxes, debts and other so-called liabilities.
Who can be your executor?
When you give instructions for your Will, you have to choose an executor. They’re the ones legally responsible to administer your estate, so it’s an important choice.
You can appoint one or more people to act as executor – the only restrictions are that they need to be over 20 years old and of sound mind.
Some common options are:
- Your partner or spouse;
- Family members or friends; or
- Lawyers and/or accountants.
You can also appoint a trustee company, such as Perpetual Guardian.
What is involved?
A lot goes into administering an estate. Some of the key steps are :
- Locating your last Will;
- Obtaining authority from the High Court to administer the estate – this is called a Grant of Administration;
- Identifying and dealing with all your assets;
- Identifying all possible claimants;
- Paying all debts and liabilities;
- Meeting any tax obligations;
- Allocating the estate to your beneficiaries (you name them in your Will); and
- Accounting to your beneficiaries by preparing and providing financial statements.
Why choose Perpetual Guardian as your executor?
Chances are you want someone who knows what they are doing to administer your estate.
Our role as executor is to carry out your wishes, but we also make it a priority to ensure your loved ones are supported and communicated with throughout the entire process – we’re here to help.
With that said, choosing us means:
- Your estate is administered swiftly because of special legal privileges we have as professional Trustee company – we’ve been around for over 135 years, so are firmly established in New Zealand;
- All your estate matters are confidential and only those with the right to know about your affairs get information;
- Your beneficiaries are consulted and communicated with at each stage to keep them up-to-date with all progress;
- Your estate is handled by one of our estate administration experts in an independent and impartial way – that means always acting in your beneficiaries’ best interest and applying a detailed understanding of the law, taxation and accounting;
- Accounting systems are used to provide accurate and always available statements of accounts to your beneficiaries;
- We have plenty of branches around the country and access to various agencies throughout the world. That means we’ve got your and your beneficiaries’ back wherever you move, and your overseas assets can be administered faster.
Without trumpeting our own horn too much - your team at Perpetual Guardian ticks all the boxes.
What does it cost?
Perpetual Guardian charges a scale commission, based on the value of the estate assets.
In addition to the above scale fee, there may also be time-based charges for specialist legal and accounting advice and activity outside of the normal executor’s role.
Still have questions? Take a look at our FAQs below, or get in touch with us directly.
Frequently asked questions
What is a Grant of Administration?
A Grant of Administration is the legal authority the High Court gives an individual, a lawyer or a trustee company (such as Perpetual Guardian) to administer your estate.
There are three types of grants which an executor has to apply for depending on the value of your assets and whether or not you have a valid Will:
- Grant of Probate – this is for when your assets are worth over $120,000;
- Election to Administer – this is for when your assets are worth between $15,000 and $120,000;
- Letter of Administration – this application is required if there’s no valid Will.
Only a trustee company can apply for an Election to Administer as executor – a this isn’t just a simpler process, but is also processed faster by the High Court. If an individual or solicitor is the executor they always need to apply for a Grant of Probate.
What is a beneficiary?
A beneficiary is someone who benefits from, or is left something, in your Will. They may be left a specific item, a gift of money, or even be entitled to a share of the residuary estate.
The residuary estate is what remains of the estate’s assets after any estate debts, administration expenses and any other gifts in the Will are all paid.
How long does it take?
This depends entirely on your family circumstances, how complex your assets and liabilities are, and whether anyone contests the estate.
A straightforward estate can be finalised within three months from when the Grant to Administer is obtained from the High Court.
However, some complex estates can take well over a year to be finalised.
If your estate is contested there’ll be further delays. This is because the executor can’t finalise your estate until all claims are settled.