Estate planning can be a complicated and sensitive process involving wide-ranging emotional considerations and numerous decisions. If you are thinking about organising your up-to-date will, then among the many important decisions you will need to make is who to appoint as the executor(s) and trustee(s) of your estate. The executor(s) of a will is/are the individual(s) entrusted with managing and distributing the deceased’s estate according to their wishes. You will also need to consider who your beneficiaries might be. In other words, those individuals, charities, or other recipients who stand to inherit assets, property, or personal items from your estate.

One of the frequent questions we are asked by people who are giving us their instructions regarding drafting a new will is: ‘Is it is possible, or even advisable, for an individual to be the executor of their will, while also receiving a specific gift or a share of the rest and residue of the Estate?’

If you are thinking of appointing a beneficiary as an executor, read on for a quick overview of estate planning roles, the executor’s responsibilities, the challenges executors can face, and potential complications and considerations you must be aware of.

1. What is an Executor?

The primary role of an executor is to administer the estate of a deceased person according to the instructions stipulated in their will. As a fiduciary, the executor is responsible for managing the estate with due care and loyalty, ensuring that all assets are distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries. Executors may handle various tasks, including but not limited to:

  • paying outstanding debts and taxes
  • disposing of the deceased’s property according to the will
  • identifying, securing, and appraising the deceased’s assets
  • distributing the remaining assets among the beneficiaries as instructed in the will, and
  • – finalising any legal or administrative matters associated with the estate.

2. What is a Beneficiary?

A beneficiary is an individual, group, or organisation designated in a will to receive assets, property, or personal items from the deceased’s estate. Beneficiaries can inherit various forms of assets, such as real estate, cash, investments, and personal possessions.

Can a Beneficiary be an Executor?

In most cases, a beneficiary can indeed serve as the executor of a will. In fact, it is quite common for individuals to appoint a trusted family member or friend as both beneficiary and executor. Such an appointment may streamline the administration process and circumvent potential disputes among multiple executors. However, there are some factors and potential complications for you to consider before you make this decision.

Potential Considerations and Complications

1. Conflict of Interest

Given the dual roles that a beneficiary-executor must fulfil, there is the potential for a conflict of interest. While the executor is responsible for distributing the estate’s assets impartially and fairly, a beneficiary may have a vested interest in receiving a more substantial share. It is essential to trust that the appointed individual can manage these roles ethically and without bias.

2. Challenging the Will

If other beneficiaries feel the executor-beneficiary has acted unfairly or has not distributed the assets according to the will, they may have legal grounds to challenge the will. This could complicate and prolong the estate administration process.

3. Capacity and Willingness

The appointed beneficiary-executor must have the necessary capacity and willingness to undertake the responsibilities associated with estate administration. Managing an estate can be a complex and challenging process, requiring knowledge of legal and financial matters, as well as diplomacy and negotiation skills. Therefore, it is crucial to weigh the willingness and capability of the appointed individual to manage various tasks and complexities.

4. State Legislation

While Australian law generally allows a beneficiary to act as an executor, it is vital to remain informed of any state-specific regulations and requirements that may govern this aspect of estate planning. Ensuring compliance with relevant legislation is imperative to ensure the legality and validity of appointed executors.

Your Best Practices for Appointing a Beneficiary as Executor

1. Open Communication

If you are going to appoint a beneficiary as executor of your estate, then discuss the prospect with the individual of your choice and ensure they understand the responsibilities and expectations associated with the role. Communication is vital when it comes to appointing an executor, as misunderstandings or miscommunications may lead to complications during the administration of your estate.

2. Seek Legal Advice

It is highly recommended to consult with an experienced estate planning solicitor to gain expert advice about whether appointing a beneficiary as an executor is appropriate for your specific circumstances. A solicitor can provide guidance on the relevant legal requirements and potential complications that may arise during the administration process.

3. Formalise Your Decision in Your Will

Once you have decided to appoint a beneficiary as the executor of your will, it is essential that your will is clearly drafted to formalise the appointment, specifying the executor’s name, relationship to you, and the duties of the executor(s).

4. Provide Comprehensive Instructions

A clear and detailed will is essential to guide your executor(s) through the administration process. Consider leaving thorough instructions on how to distribute your assets, how to handle any potential disputes among beneficiaries, and any other considerations or preferences specific to your estate.

Make Informed Estate Planning Decisions with Expert Legal Guidance – Just Ask.

Your circumstances are unique and so it is natural for you to have questions when it comes to setting out your wishes in terms of your property once you pass away. Navigating your estate planning and figuring out who to appoint as your executor(s) can be complex, challenging, and stressful. However, when you understand the benefits and potential complications of appointing a beneficiary as an executor, you can rest assured that the administration process of your estate is efficient and smooth after your death.

It is wise to get legal advice specific to the unique circumstances of your estate so that your wishes are carried out and your loved ones and/or the other beneficiaries of your estate receive the shares you intend for them. Seek out expert legal advice from solicitors who take time to listen, communicate clearly and answer your questions. Once your will has been drafted, read it very carefully to ensure that your wishes have been correctly understood before you sign your will. Ensure that you make informed decisions regarding your estate and that your will is kept current. If you do not keep your will up-to-date, it is possible that your wishes will not be carried out as you would like them to be. It is crucial for you to seek expert legal advice from specialised professionals.

Are you thinking about updating your will?
Contact our expert estate planning lawyers, right now!:

If it’s time to organise your up-to-date will, then our team of dedicated Anumis Legal lawyers can guide you through every step of your Estate Planning process. We are here to offer you tailored advice and solutions to ensure your wishes are carried out effectively. Reach out to Anumis Legal today to discuss your Estate planning options and be sure to secure your estate and ensure your loved ones are taken care of beyond your passing according to your wishes.  For your complimentary chat with our expert estate planning lawyers, call 07 5455 6347 or email now. 

If you’re looking for a wills & estate planning on the Sunshine Coast, check out our Wills & Estate Planning page to learn more about our services.


Nadine Love

Nadine Love is a lawyer and part of “the dream team” at Anumis Legal. She completed her law degree at Southern Cross University and received the New South Wales Bar Association Prize for Evidence and Civil Litigation. In addition to her passion for family law and therapeutic jurisprudence Nadine is also a celebrated international author, personal & business coach, drama therapist and motivational mentor. Nadine’s interests encompass swimming and walking in the rainforest with golden retriever Anu, and Australian Shepherds, Lex, and Onyx. She combines her strengths of advocacy, empathy and out-of-the box problem solving to support her clients to achieve their best legal outcomes.

Your Reliable Commercial & Family Law Firm