How to find an executor when family and friends are ruled out

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YourLifeChoices member Sarah and her husband have no family in Australia and do not wish to ask friends to be executors of their will. They have asked estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich for guidance.


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, if and when we are no longer fit or if we die. My questions are: how do we organise someone to take on this role? If it has to be a lawyer, how much will that cost? If we leave our estate to charity, will the charity fill this role?


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. 

A charity might be prepared to appoint an executor, but unless it is also qualified to act as an executor under Australian legislation, it would not be able to act in the role itself. You would have to negotiate this with the charity in advance, ensure it has the authorisation to act, or you can appoint an executor, and then ensure the executor provisions in your will are tailored to address your wishes.

*Not her real name

This answer is general information only, not specific legal advice. You should not rely on it without specific advice from an expert who can review all the relevant documents and circumstances.

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]


Disclaimer: This information has been provided by Rod Cunich and should be considered general in nature – legal advice should be sought.

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Total Comments: 13
  1. 0

    Doesn’t the Public Trustee carry out this function?

    • 0

      yes, but I wouldn’t touch the PT with a 40 ft pole…Their fees are relatively high. Just get a reputable solicitor…he will administer the estate in a timely fashion at a reasonable cost..

    • 0

      I think they do and they have a percentage of the value rate they charge. I think the problems are, after we are not around to oversee these matters, we rely on others to do the job of winding up the estate. Some operators are able to get in and resolve matters well, and others look for ways to bleed the estate via their various required activities, delaying final resolution, meanwhile charging the estate for what ever they deem needs to be done to the property before it is put on the market and to ensure that work is actually completed.

      Unless there is a capable and trustworthy known person it is for me at least a tough call as to what to do for the most reassuring arrangement.

      The article helped a little but truly a more in depth discussion might be more helpful.

    • 0

      …and they charge a small fortune. A solicitor can do it for you if needed.

    • 0

      I agree with Thommo about Public Trustee. Google it and precpare to be frightened.

    • 0

      My father used the Public Trustee. A very simple estate took nearly 12 months and they charged exorbitant fees. Every time we phoned there was a new person handling the case. They couldn’t handle the simplest thing ie I had to provide the calculation to detail the share for each of the eleven recipients. Poor Dad thought he was doing the right thing.

  2. 0

    Interesting article. There is a presumption that relatives will do the “right thing” when that is not always the case. I had an old boss who retired to the UK where his wife was from and when his sister died he was the sole executor. The estate back then was about $40,000 and the executor flew back to administer the estate. After flights, meals and accommodation were claimed against the estate, the family got nothing.

    But I digress, I would use the family solicitor. Our solicitor has handled the family business for many years including wills, property transfers, enduring powers of attorney and sundry smaller items. The fees have been reasonable and all matters carried out without undue delay. I have no gripe with the Public Trustee but I feel confident with someone I know and have dealt with. The only problem is if we outlive our solicitor.

  3. 0

    The Public Trustee charge a PERCENTAGE whereas a solicitor charges a specific FEE.

  4. 0

    My mother used the Public Trustee – very expensive for the recipients of the estate. She left each of her great grandchildren $20,000, when the oldest turned 18, 3 years after her death she received $18,000 after fees for administration, how can $2000 in fees for an amount of money that only had to be parked in an investment bank account until maturity be reasonable. I shudder to think what the others will receive when they turn 18.

  5. 0

    I,m in the same position,I signed up with PT with an enduring power of attorney, when I went to update they couldn’t find my records
    I have signed up my will with a local Solicitor but wonder if an accountant would be better as I have pensions, and small investments and who cancels the rent, phone, gas and sells the car
    PT once sent an old mans belongings to the dump regardless of his family

  6. 0

    I,m in the same position,I signed up with PT with an enduring power of attorney, when I went to update they couldn’t find my records
    I have signed up my will with a local Solicitor but wonder if an accountant would be better as I have pensions, and small investments and who cancels the rent, phone, gas and sells the car
    PT once sent an old mans belongings to the dump regardless of his family



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