Often people think I don't have any assets, so I don't need a Will. An Executor is first and foremost a person who makes decisions. There are actually a lot of decisions that your Executor needs to make that have nothing to do with assets, or that are related to assets but very small assets. Without a Will they cannot do these things, because they are not the Executor.
Planning your funeral
The Executor, not the next of kin, makes all of the decisions in relation to the funeral and the burial or cremation because your body actually becomes the 'property' of the Estate. The Executor also decides whether to donate your body to science.
We have had to help people navigate this stage without a Will and it is difficult. While it is possible to apply for Letters of Administration and become an Administrator, and make all the decisions an Executor would have made if a Will existed, that won't happen for many months. There are decisions that could be made in the short term, like planning the funeral and attending to the body, where a certified copy of the Will is enough to assist the person making those decisions.
If there is no Executor then it is very difficult to make these decisions. Sometimes decisions can't be made at all, like the decision to cremate a body or donate a body to science. Payment of the funeral invoice can become problematic, if there is no Executor then even if there are funds to cover the funeral invoice the funds may not be able to be released for that purpose.
Closing bank accounts
Even if there is very little money in a bank account it still needs to be closed. The banks want to deal with an Executor or an Administrator, and in the absence of these things they may refuse to do anything with the account.
We once had a matter where there was no Will, the bank held $500 in an account and refused to distribute the money unless the next of kin applied for Letters of Administration. We told the bank that the filing fee alone would be more than the amount in the bank account, because there was a car and some superannuation there was in that case a filing fee. We had managed to deal with the other assets on the basis that we acted for the next of kin, but not this asset. We told the bank to keep the $500 it wasn't worth it. In the end we actually had to apply for Letters of Administration for that client as there was another larger asset that required the formal documents, but this is an example of problems that occur when there is no Will.
The same applies for obtaining refunds. Perhaps your friend just purchased a trip overseas? The airline will not want to deal with you unless you have a formal position, and even then they will make it difficult. Help these people out by giving them the title Executor so that airlines have to deal with them and can't brush them off with "you need to apply for Letters of Administration".
Dealing with government bodies
There are a number of government bodies that have to be notified of a person's death like Centrelink, Medicare and the Tax Office. While in theory you can deal with these bodies without a Will, in practise you are making life much easier for the person who has to run these errands by giving them the title Executor.
Dealing with and disposing of assets
You might think you don't have assets, but I bet you have a house full of stuff. Who decides what happens to this? You guessed it, the Executor. If there isn't an Executor it becomes a bit of a void, and the friend or family member who does step up and deal with the mess will be worried that someone might later come along and criticise them for the way they dealt with it, or even pursue them for lost moneys.
Executors have fairly broad powers to make decisions (like the decision that it is not worth it to hold a garage sale I will just throw this stuff out) and without those powers it is very difficult to deal with your personal possessions.
Join our mailing list
We have a specific mailing list for those people who want to receive information about Wills and Estate Planning, and whenever we publish a new article on that topic you will also get a copy of it sent to your inbox.
I need to do a Will
If you are thinking about doing a Will then you should make an appointment to speak with Bruce Coode. He has been helping people prepare their Wills for over forty years, and he understands that there is so much more to preparing a Will than simply looking after assets and debts.
You can contact us about making an appointment for a Will, and also start your draft instructions by clicking on this link and filling out this form. Our receptionist will contact you to make an appointment and you will be sent a link for the form to start completing the instructions. You will also get a set of emails stepping you through some of the decisions you need to make, like who is my Executor, and who might seek to challenge my Estate.