Responsibilities of executors, attorneys and representatives

Executors (sometimes also referred to as ‘personal representatives’) under wills, attorneys under enduring powers of attorney, and representatives under personal directives have important responsibilities. In many cases, such roles will include fiduciary duties, which are heightened legal duties to act with the utmost good faith in the best interests of certain other people.

An executor appointed under a will must administer the estate of a deceased person for the benefit of the beneficiaries mentioned in the deceased person’s will. The executor must advise the beneficiaries of the value of the estate, and, once debts and taxes have been paid, must ensure that each beneficiary receives their proper share of the estate.

An attorney under an enduring power of attorney (in this case, a representative who is not necessarily a lawyer) must look after the finances of the person they are representing. The attorney must deal with the person’s finances to the best of their ability, making sure that bills are paid and that money isn’t squandered. The attorney may also have a duty to provide financial updates to other interested parties.

A representative under a personal directive has the responsibility of making medical and personal decisions for the person they are representing. The representative under a personal directive must look out for the quality of life of the person they are representing and must do their best to ensure that decisions regarding that person are consistent with the values and directions expressed in the person’s personal directive.

In many cases, an attorney will also be a representative under a personal directive, and that same person may also be an executor. While the same representative may have different roles (executor, attorney, or representative under a personal directive), it’s important to remember that those roles carry with them different responsibilities, and that certain roles (the attorney under the enduring power of attorney and the representative under the personal directive) require action while the person who is being represented is still alive, while the executor role requires action after the person being represented has already died.

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