Duties of executors

An executor is the person named in a will to carry out the wishes of a person after they die. They organise to collect the assets of the deceased, pay the debts and distribute the property as set out in the deceased's will.

If the will sets out the deceased's wishes on funeral arrangements or organ donation, the executor needs to make the necessary arrangements.

Legal Aid WA does not give advice about inheritance matters, including probate and letters of administration.  

If you are having difficulties as an executor, you can ask the Public Trustee for help to administer the estate (or even step in as executor).

What are the duties of an executor?

  1. Notify all beneficiaries named in the will.
  2. Manage the property or goods left in the will to:
    • take care of any business interests
    • safeguard any income
    • invest money not needed immediately
    • collect any valuables
    • insure all property.
  3. Value the estate and keep a list of the valuations. The estate includes all:
    • cash
    • business interests
    • personal effects
    • securities
    • real estate
    • sale of property
    • debts due, and
    • debts owing.
  4. Complete income tax returns and get a clearance from the Australian Tax Office.
  5. Obtain authority to administer the estate:
    • Apply for a grant of probate or letters of administration if necessary.
  6. Pay all debts owing If necessary, assets may have to be sold to pay debts.
  7. Establish trusts if any beneficiaries are under 18 years of age or who lack  the capacity to make decisions for themselves, or there are specific instructions about this in the will. Get legal advice about doing this.
  8. Divide the estate:
    • Prepare statements for each of the beneficiaries.
    • Distribute cash and or assets to beneficiaries according to the provisions in the will.

If the deceased had bank accounts, shares, real estate or other assets in their name or owned real estate as a 'tenant in common' with someone else, you may need to apply for a grant of probate to finalise the estate.

If you are not sure of your responsibilities, you should get legal advice.

Is there a set time for an executor to finish their duties?

An executor must act with great care. Within a year is generally seen as a reasonable time to finish things up in.

What if I am named as an executor and don’t want to do it?

If you are named as the executor but do not want to act, you do not have to accept the responsibility.

If you refuse to act as executor:

  • Another executor named in the will can take on all the duties. If no other executor is named, you can apply to the Supreme Court to appoint an administrator.
  • You cannot change your mind later.

Can I get paid as an executor?

Sometimes the deceased sets out how much the executor should be paid. If this is not included in the will, the executor does not get paid unless all the beneficiaries agree the executor should be paid. An application can be made to the Supreme Court about this.

The executor may use money from the estate to cover necessary expenses (such as getting professional advice from accountants and valuers).

Executing a will can be complicated. It may be a good idea to get advice from a lawyer. The deceased's estate will cover reasonable fees charged for legal advice.


Citizens Advice Bureau



Reviewed: 9 February 2024


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.