Your queries about executors answered

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We all need to ensure we have end-of-life plans in place in a timely fashion to minimise the pain for relatives. YourLifeChoices receives many questions about executors and estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich always has the answers.


Q. Francis*

My sister-in-law and I are executors to my father-in-law’s will. What happens if one of us passes away prior to my father-in-law passing? Does the surviving executor then have sole control of the will?

A. It depends on the exact wording of the will. My wills are drafted in such a way that a surviving executor has power to apply for probate as a sole director. The will would have to expressly state that something else is to occur in these circumstances for this not to occur.


Q. Sarah*

My husband and I have no children and our only living relatives are in the UK. We also do not have friends who we would want to take on the responsibility of being our power of attorney, trustees, executor or whatever. My questions are: how do we organise someone to take on this role and how much will that cost?

A. Where no family or friends are available, your primary options are to appoint a trustee company or a professional such as a solicitor or accountant to act as executor.

Most professionals will charge an hourly rate for work done, and no more. You can, however, negotiate in advance whether they receive only an hourly rate for work done, and/or a commission.

Your arrangement concerning fees should be included in the will.

Most trustee companies will charge a commission based on the gross value of the estate and, crucially, they may engage a solicitor or their staff to do much of the work and charge an hourly rate for the work undertaken.

If you elect to use a trustee company, I recommend you make inquiries about their charges and, importantly, the quality of their service. Some have an excellent reputation, while others have a very poor reputation because of poor service and/or very high fees.

Rod Cunich is a lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience who specialises in estate planning. If you have a question for Rod, simply email it to [email protected]

* Not their real names

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Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

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Total Comments: 5
  1. 0

    In example 1 why can’t the will be changed by the person to add an executor if one of two executors pass away.

    I have seen families destroyed by greedy executors. A person needs to be very careful in appointment of the executors. And why a sole executor, who can apply framework to receive all assets if that person is a listed beneficiary.

  2. 0

    Whatever you do steer clear of State Public Trustees. From personal experience they overcharge, and are extremely slow in finalising even simple estates.

    • 0

      Totally agree. My elderly aunt used the PT and I can only describe the management as utterly deplorable. She didn’t have much of an estate, but she could have saved allot of time, money and stress by simply leaving it all the the PT, for all the angst they put the remaining family though. Utterly appalling.

    • 0

      Yes, with the amount of complaints against the PT I’m surprised they haven’t been closed down.

  3. 0

    I am in similar quandary. I am single, never married, no kids. Estranged distant and long term few family members, definitely not a consideration. Over the years, I have had to change my will at least 4 times, and costs soon add. Now my latest executor – younger than me – has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. So have to face making another change. Totally averse to the Public Trustee, and not interested in lining a lawyer’s pocket, both after experiencing disasters with other people.
    I am now considering some younger friends – I just hope I don’t need to make any more changes.



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