What Is an Executor of a Will in NSW?

Question: What is a testator in a Will?

Answer: Any person that writes and executes a valid will in NSW is known as the document’s testator.

As testator of your own will, you will name the beneficiaries you wish to receive your assets after you die, appoint an executor and state your wishes for your funeral.

For a testator’s will to be considered valid, specific legal requirements, which vary between states, must be met.

What is the role of the executor of a will in NSW?


The role of executor comes with several, often complicated responsibilities. Anyone appointed as an executor in NSW will have the following responsibilities when administering your will:


  • Locating the Will

The first step an executor needs to take is to locate the will. In most cases, the executor will have been informed of the will’s location before the deceased’s passing.


  • Organising Funeral Arrangements

An executor in NSW will be required to arrange the funeral of the deceased according to the wishes laid out in the will.

This should be carried out as soon as possible after death.

It is important for the executor to follow the deceased’s wishes as carefully as possible to avoid any legal consequences.

For example, it is illegal in NSW to cremate somebody against their wishes.

When organising the funeral, the executor should consider discussing the arrangements with the deceased’s family, especially if there are religious considerations.


  • Obtaining Probate

As part of their role as executor, the administrator will need to apply for probate.

Probate is official recognition that the will is legal and valid.

This is obtained by making an application to the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court for a ‘grant of probate’.

This document recognises the authority of the executor to administer the will.

Banks, insurance companies and super funds will usually require probate before they will release any assets in the name of the deceased.

A grant of probate is also required if the executor will be selling or transferring any real estate.

  • Protecting the Estate

It is the role of the executor to protect the assets of the estate.

This may involve storing valuables, keeping surplus funds invested, insuring all property and protecting any business interests.

The executor must also make sure the assets of the estate are not diminished due to their action or inaction.

This might occur if the executor fails to administer the estate within the prescribed time limits and incurs unnecessary legal costs.

In situations such as this, the executor may be held personally liable for any reduction in the estate assets.

Seeking the advice of an experienced lawyer will help an executor ensure this doesn’t occur.


  • Determining Assets and Debts

The executor will need to confirm the assets and debts held by the estate at the time of the will-maker’s death.

This is achieved by contacting financial institutions, relevant companies, and performing land and property searches.

The executor will prepare a statement of assets and liabilities covering:

Personal effects

Taxation details

Cash and other securities

Business Interests

Real Estate

Debts Owing

Debts Due


  • Defending the Estate

In the case where someone wants to challenge or contest the will, it is the executor’s job to defend the estate. Any executor in this position should seriously consider securing the services of a lawyer to guide them through the legal process related to a contest to a will.


  • Distributing the Estate

Once the assets of the estate have been established, and all debts paid, the executor will then distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

This generally involves transferring cash and assets to the named heirs.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, an executor must administer the estate within 12 months of the will-maker’s death.


  • Keeping Proper Records and Receipts

Executors are expected to keep proper records and receipts of all assets transferred in the distribution of an estate.

Although the role of executor is generally unpaid, executors are entitled to reimbursement for any out of pocket expenses related to the administration of the will.

Keeping proper financial records and saving receipts will make sure the executor is repaid from the estate for any reasonable admin costs.