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Individual rights & freedoms

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: Wills, “intestacy”, and small estates”.

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.

Administration Act 1969, ss 13, 63

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.

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?

An executor:

  • 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.

Next Section | Administrators

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Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

New Zealand Law Society



Making a will and estate administration

Dividing up relationship property.

Access pamphlets online or order hardcopies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Phone: (04) 472 7837
Email: pamphlets@lawsociety.org.nz

Ministry of Justice


This webpage provides some useful information and links on the more technical legal side of getting a copy of a will when a relative has died.

Māori Land Succession


This gives information on how Māori land is dealt with, including how land is dealt with after an owner has passed away.

Public Trust


Phone: 0800 371 471
The Public Trust gives information about things to consider when making a will, setting things up, choosing an executor and estate administration. Facilities are also available for making a will online. You can call them or visit their website to fill out an enquiry form.

Consumer NZ


The Consumer NZ website contains good information about wills, including the legal requirements for making a will, and what it’s likely to cost to administer after a person dies.

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