During a person’s lifetime s/he will gather assets, in other words, belongings such as a house or a motor vehicle. These assets and liabilities will form part of a person’s estate. At the death of that person, his/her deceased estate must be administered, in other words, divided, distributed and controlled by someone. This person is called an executor.
However, the role of an estate executor and who can be appointed as one has been largely misunderstood.
What does the executor do?
“Executor” is the legal term for referring to the person, or people, nominated in your will to carry out the directives you set out in your will.
- This means that it is the executor’s responsibility to disburse your property to the mentioned beneficiaries in your will, but also obtain information on potential heirs, collecting and arranging payments, and approving or disapproving creditors’ claims.
- It is the executor’s duty to calculate and pay the estate tax, and to ensure that the correct documentation is filed with the relevant authorities.
- The executor is the individual that represents your estate.
Who can be appointed as the executor?
It has become normal to appoint a friend, family member or beneficiary to act as the executor, as they most likely have intimate knowledge of your estate and your affairs, but also, they will not rack up the fees that a legal body might accrue.
However, there is a misconception that you can avoid the fees by appointing a family member as the estate executor, but this could also mean that you are deferring the cost to the nominated family member.
- Family members appointed as executors on larger estates immediately find themselves out of their depth, and not only end up hiring a professional executor, but may also pay more for these services than necessary.
- A simple way to address this is by appointing a “professional” executor during your lifetime. This allows you to negotiate the executor fees.
If you appoint a family member, make sure that they understand that they will have to appoint a professional agent, and that they should negotiate the fee and be very cautious of agreeing to a fee arrangement in terms of which the professional agent charges their professional fee, instead of the legislated scale.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)