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Tough Questions: Who will administer your Will?

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Fuli Fuli and Vaipongi.

Being the Executor of a Will is an honour but a big responsibility. Public Trust’s Executor Assist takes away some of the stress.

New Zealand’s Public Trust has helped generations of families with independent expert advice on Wills, Trusts, Estate Administration and Management since it started more than 140 years ago, and says that in today’s increasingly diverse society, it’s more important than ever that Kiwis make a Will to protect their assets and provide for their loved ones.

One of the first things you need to consider is who is going to execute your Will. Being asked to be an Executor is an honour, but it’s also a big responsibility. On average it requires 52 hours to complete – that’s more than one week’s annual leave. Public Trust’s Executor Assist is a specialist service, which extends the organisation’s expertise in estate administration to privately appointed executors and trustees, allowing a family member to carry out a person’s wishes, but to obtain expert advice in doing so.

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“Nine out of 10 people have never had to act in that sort of capacity before, and not only are they dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, they’re also faced with a number of tasks which are quite foreign to them,” says Jacqui Beilby, Executor Assist Manager. “The idea of Executor Assist is they can call us, and we provide them with an overview of their roles and responsibilities as Executor.”

Being Executor includes obtaining probate, dealing with assets, taking care of debts, finalising the deceased’s tax statement, and then distributing the estate as per the terms of the Will. It requires an understanding of legal and accounting processes, which also carries the risk of personal liability.

It can also require some mediation skills, which can be difficult when you’re already grieving a loved one. “The biggest thing is keeping everyone who will benefit under the Will informed, and the Executor can quite often find themselves in the middle of a family dispute,” says Beilby. “The death of a loved one can bring out the very best and, sadly, the very worst in people,” she says. “With Executor Assist, we can take away some of the stress.”

One of the greatest advantages of the service, she says, is that you get to pick and choose the level of support you need. “We provide an overview of the roles and responsibilities of being an Executor, so you can identify which ones you feel confident in dealing with and others where you will need support. We provide a fee estimate upfront, so there is complete transparency around what the costs are going to be.”

The benefit of using Public Trust is that “we deal with Wills and Estates all day, every day, and we have processes and systems in place to do it well,” says Beilby. “Public Trust offers independent, expert advice and impartiality. That’s so important for peace of mind.”

A nationwide campaign called Tough Questions launched by Public Trust is a call to action every New Zealander should heed. Asking the tough questions now, planning for the future and keeping up to date is important.

How prepared are you? See how many Tough Questions you can answer in the “Tough Questions Quiz”.