The executor has the responsibility of carrying out the wishes of the deceased as expressed in his or her will. This involves collecting and preserving the assets of the estate, paying debts, filing tax returns and maintaining records. In many cases the executor will need to apply to the court for a grant of probate so that assets of the estate can be collected and then distributed in accordance with the will. The executor must act in a timely manner.
The executor must always act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. They must not put their own interests above those of the estate and must avoid any activity that could be construed as fraud.
There are no absolute time limits. As a general rule, an application for a grant of probate should normally be made within 6 months of death, and the estate distributed within a year. Legal issues arise where the executor fails to act in a timely way, fails to apply for probate or to properly distribute the assets to beneficiaries.
If the executor fails to carry out the terms of the will, a beneficiary may petition the court for appropriate orders including to have the executor removed.
The court may remove the executor and appoint a new one if there is evidence that the executor stole from the estate or intentionally hid assets, refused to seek a grant of probate or distribute the estate in accordance with the will, or failed to maintain records showing that they have distributed property in accordance with the will.