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Executors of Estates

Traps and liability issues for Executors of Estates

You are appointed as Executor of an Estate. You appreciate the confidence expressed in you, and you are more than happy to help your relative or friend.

It can’t be that hard, can it?

What is often not appreciated is the responsibility that comes with being the Executor of an estate and that an Executor can be personally liable if the legal requirements are not performed properly.

The basic requirements are:

Executor’s role. An Executor is required to uphold the deceased’s Will and put into effect the deceased’s wishes as expressed in the will. This usually requires the Executor to obtain a Grant of Probate from the Supreme Court. The Grant proves to the rest of the world the Executors power to deal with the deceased’s assets
An Executor has a strict duty to properly and effectively administer the deceased’s Estate. An Executor can be personally liable for a breach of that duty. Executors must act impartially and prudently.
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How a Will Lawyer can Assist Non-English Speaking Clients

A recent report prepared by Charles Sturt University and the University of Adelaide found that “…roughly half of adult Australians have a Will but nearly half of those who do don’t feel that their Will is up-to-date or adequately expresses their wishes.”[1]

This is surprising, considering that a Will is probably one of the most important documents that a person will ever sign.  It also highlights the importance of talking to a Will Lawyer.

A Will is defined as a legal document, and a statement of a person’s wishes that are to be executed when they pass away.  The benefit of having a Will is that you get to decide how the assets that you have gained over a lifetime may be distributed.  When preparing a Will, it is important that you speak to a Will Lawyer to ensure that it meets all legal requirements and that your wishes are clearly expressed so as to reduce the chance of there being an argument over what your intentions were (who receives what).
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Contested Wills – Death Bed Wills

Capacity and Death Bed Wills
The case of McNamara v Nagel [2017] NSWSC 91 considered the issue of testator capacity in contested wills made upon the individual’s death bed.


  • The contested will was made 15 days before the then 87 year old testator’s death
  • There was no evidence that the testator suffered from delusions, dementia or any other cognitive deficit before her death. However, she did have momentary periods of fever and delirium during the time in which the will was executed
  • The new will included significant changes from the testator’s previous will
  • It was argued that there was undue influence on the part of the principal beneficiary, as they were present when then testator gave instructions for the will

Despite there being evidence from the solicitor and another witness and conflicting expert evidence as to the testator’s capacity, the attack on the will failed and the testator was found to have capacity.

If you would like more information or advice in relation to a will dispute, contested wills or testamentary capacity you should consult a member of our Wills and Estate Planning Team.
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Will Disputes and Removal of Executors

Executors Not Easily Removed by Court
The case of Budulica v Budulica [2017] QSC 60 confirmed that that a testator’s choice of an executor will not flippantly be changed by the court when will disputes arise. The court suggested that there usually must be circumstances such as misconduct in administration to justify the removal of an executor. However, it was also suggested that even in light of misconduct in administration the court will consider relevant mitigating factors before exercising its discretion to remove an executor.

Such factors include:

  • An executors willingness to learn from its mistakes; and
  • The stage of administration of the estate


If you would like more information or advice in relation to will disputes you should consult a member of our Wills and Estate Planning Team.

Contact Mimi Su on (02) 9635 7966 or

Contact Terry Doust (02) 9635 7966 or