Who’s who: Executors and other key people
Who is an executor?
An executor is the person or company appointed in a will to control and distribute the will-maker’s property according to the instructions in the will. (For information about the executor’s role when the will-maker has died, see the chapter “A death in the family”, under “Dealing with the deceased’s property”.)
An executor can be:
- any adult over 20 who is of sound mind, or
- a trustee company under the Trustee Companies Act 1967.
Ideally, when you make a will you should appoint someone with a mix of social and business skills who is able to act impartially between the beneficiaries. It is not recommended that you appoint your spouse, partner or children, as they may not be impartial.
Note: If your executor dies before you do, the executor’s executor becomes your executor, unless you have changed your will and appointed a new executor or have provided for a replacement executor in your will.
Do I have to get the person’s consent to appoint them as my executor?
It is not legally required to get someone’s permission before appointing them as your executor. However, it is a good idea to ask them, as they may refuse to accept the role after your death.
What does an executor do?
- identifies and gathers in the deceased person’s property, sells it if necessary, pays any debts and distributes what remains to the beneficiaries according to the will
- ensures (as far as legally possible) that the deceased person’s wishes, as set out in the will, are carried out
- is responsible for the deceased person’s body and its disposal. The executor can choose the type of funeral and burial, but they will generally follow what was said in the will or the wishes of family or friends.
Note: Any relevant Māori custom must be considered by the executor, but ultimately the executor has the final say on how and where the body is buried.
Can an executor also be a beneficiary?
Yes. An executor can be named in the will as a beneficiary.
Does an executor get paid?
Executors can get paid for their services, but only if this is provided for in the will. Where the executor is a professional (for example, a lawyer, accountant or trust company), they will generally ask for the will to include arrangements for their payment.