The property of a deceased is placed in the hands of a trustee, known as a personal representative. A personal representative is called an executor when there is a Will, or an administrator when there is no Will. The obligations of an executor arise from the moment of death. A person is not obliged to accept a position as an executor even if named in a Will. An executor can renounce this role but must do so before making any decisions regarding the deceased’s estate. An administrator’s duties only arise once Letters of Administration (i.e. a Court Order) is granted. Depending upon the nature and value of the estate’s assets, an executor may still have to apply to Court for a Grant of Probate before being able to carry out many of the duties of an executor. This may be a practical necessity as many third parties will not accept instructions from the executor without satisfactory proof of the executor’s authority and the validity of the Will, such proof being the Grant of Probate. A personal representative is obligated by law to act honestly and prudently and in the best interests of the beneficiaries. The personal representative is also required to act with diligence and in timely manner.
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