You might be reading this article because you have just been appointed an executor of will or are looking to understand the duties and responsibilities of an executor so that you know who you can appoint as one when writing a will. An executor is an important role in estate planning and should be carefully considered when undertaking such a role or in the appointing of one.
Read on to find out more or you can also look at how to find an executor for your will.
What is an Executor of Will?
An executor is a person who will have the responsibility of carrying out the terms outlined in a will. Most commonly, their duties include applying to the court for a Grant of Probate so they can start the process of distributing the estate.
They are also tasked with locating the assets and paying creditors before distributing the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries. Oftentimes, they are also in charge of making funeral arrangements.
You might wonder “Can an executor of will be a beneficiary?”. The answer is yes, as long as they are 21 years of age, of sound mind and not bankrupt.
How do I know if I have been appointed as an Executor of Will?
When writing a will, Usually the testator will inform you of your appointment as an executor of will, you can then choose to accept or reject the appointment.
Otherwise, the deceased’s lawyer will inform you of your appointment when they read the will. Similarly, you can choose to accept or reject the appointment.
Will I be paid as an Executor?
The deceased is not obligated to compensate the executor for his or her service.
However, according to section 66 of the Probate and Administration Act, “the court may in its or his discretion allow the executors or administrators a commission not exceeding up to 5% on the value of the assets collected by them”.
What should an Executor of Will do?
Upon acceptance of the appointment and the death of the deceased, the executor needs to complete a checklist of tasks:
1. Read and understand the will
In order to administer the estate according to the deceased’s wishes, you will need to read and understand the will.
2. Make funeral arrangements
You are to make funeral arrangements for the deceased as instructed in the will.
3. Obtain documents needed for Grant of Probate
In order to apply for a Grant of Probate, you will need to obtain all relevant documents required, some of them include but are not limited to:
- Originating summons, statement, supporting affidavit
- Results of any probate caveat searches
- Schedule of assets
- Administration oaths, affidavits and consents of co-administrators or renunciations (if any)
- Certified true copy of death certificate
- Certified true copy of the last will
4. Apply for a Grant of Probate
In order to be legally recognised by the court to execute the deceased’s will, you will need to apply for a Grant of Probate. The most convenient way to do this will be to hire a probate lawyer to do this. While you do not need to, a probate lawyer can help to file the application in the most efficient manner to simplify the process.
5. Pay off deceased’s debts and make claims for expenses
If the deceased’s estate is solvent (has more assets than liabilities), the estate can be used to pay off the debts and taxes under Section 58 of the Income Tax Act. If the deceased’s estate is insolvent (has more debts than assets), then the funeral, testamentary and administration expenses shall have priority over the debts or taxes to be paid.
According to Section 67 of the Probate and Administration Act, reimbursement of funeral expenses, reasonable testamentary and other expenses via the estate is possible if the estate is worth more than $50,000. Otherwise, the Public Trustee can administer the reimbursement of funeral expenses. The maximum amount claimable for funeral expenses is $6,000.
6. Give notice of intention to distribute assets
The executor has the responsibility to ensure that beneficiaries, creditors and any other persons who have an interest in the estate are paid according to the will.
The executor may advertise his/ her intention to distribute the deceased’s assets in the Government Gazette or newspapers. This is a notice to anyone with an interest in the estate to come forward to make their claim within 2 months.
7. Distribute the assets according to the will
Upon obtaining the Grant of Probate, the executor can proceed to distribute the assets according to the will writing within a reasonable time of the death of the deceased.
8. Keep an account of the administration of estate
The executor is under a fiduciary duty to keep accounts and allow the beneficiaries to inspect them when requested. Before the distribution of the assets, the executor must submit the accounts to the beneficiaries for their approval.
Do you need a lawyer to write a will?
While the answer to “do you need a lawyer to write a will?” is no, as an executor, you should also be informed of what constitutes a valid will and understand the circumstances of when can a will be contested in case it happens. In that situation, it is best to seek professional advice from a lawyer.
If you have been appointed as an executor of will, are deciding who to choose as an executor or have any questions about will writing in Singapore and require professional assistance, feel free to get in touch with us.