Yes, an Executor of a Will can also be a Beneficiary of that Will. And in fact this arrangement is quite common. For example, you will frequently see a husband and wife both nominated as Primary Beneficiaries and Executors in each other’s Wills.
Some of the Executor duties include:
- Making funeral arrangements
- Organising your estate, including Superannuation
- Validating your Will (called a “grant of probate”)
- Paying off any outstanding debts and taxes, and
- Distributing your estate to the Beneficiaries.
It is often a good idea to appoint more than one Executor. You might want your partner, as Executor, to handle all the personal details such as arranging your funeral and organising your estate. Then you might want a trusted friend or business colleague, as Executor, to handle the legal and financial side of things, such as paying off debts and taxes, distributing the estate and acting as a Trustee if required.
Another consideration is that a nominated Executor may pass away in the time between you write your Will and when your Will is administered. And this is another good reason to appoint two (or more) Executors in your Will.
How you arrange the Executor duties is up to you. And who you choose as Executor(s) is also up to you. The only requirements for an Executor is that they must be:
- Over 18 years of age, and
- Of sound mind (i.e. capable of carrying out your wishes)
When appointing an Executor to your Will, pick someone that you trust to carry out your wishes and also someone who is capable of doing so. You may wish to pay your Executor for the work involved in administering your wishes under your Will. But the preferred option is to appoint a Beneficiary of your Will to act as Executor and in this way you can compensate them for their efforts.
When not to make a Beneficiary in a Will an Executor
Problems can arise when a Will is contested or challenged by the Beneficiaries. If one of these parties in dispute is an Executor, with decision making power, the administering of your Will may be contested as not having been made in the best interests of the Beneficiaries or in accordance with your wishes. This can result in the matter going to court, prolonging the process and legal fees being paid by your estate.
Appointing an independent Executor, who is not a Beneficiary of your Will but instead paid for their services, can be a useful tactic. If you foresee disagreements between your Beneficiaries – for example, they might be rival siblings or you have a valuable asset that may be fought over – appointing a solicitor to act as an independent Executor may avoid problems.
In any case, always make your Will – your wishes and your Executor’s duties – as clear as possible.