Choosing an executor
Choosing an executor is one of the most important decisions you'll make when you're preparing your will. Choose someone who is willing and able to carry out the many required tasks.
Your executorExecutor Someone you name to carry out the wishes that you set out in your will after your death. May be named by the court if you don’t name one. In Ontario, an executor is called an estate trustee.+ read full definition is responsible for protecting and administering your estateEstate The total sum of money and property you leave behind when you die.+ read full definition and distributing your assets to your beneficiaries. These are key duties that require a substantial amount of time and effort – and the ability to make capable, and financially responsible decisions. When choosing someone for this role, or if you are going to accept taking on this role, it is important to remember that the executor is a fiduciary and has legal obligations to the estate.
The executor must exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonable person would exercise in dealing with the property of the deceased. They owe a “duty of loyalty” which means that the executor’s decisions and actions must solely be in the interest of the estate. The executor must act with “an even-hand”, acting impartially among all the beneficiaries and be transparent by providing information to the beneficiaries. Finally, the executor is responsible for handling the estates’ assets and must be able to show how each asset was dealt with.
5 qualities to look for in an executor
Your executor should be someone who:
- You trust to manage your affairs the way you want and is reliable
- Lives reasonably close to you, so it’s easy to deal with your family and your assets
- Has some knowledge of taxTax A fee the government charges on income, property, and sales. The money goes to finance government programs and other costs.+ read full definition, investments and financial decision-making and knows when to seek guidance from others such as tax professionals or lawyers
- Is capable, sympathetic and good at getting things done and communicates well
- Is likely to survive you
3 tips for choosing an executor
1. Consider naming an estates professional as your executor
Many people choose to appoint family members or close friends as their executor. However, if you have a complex estate or are concerned about potential family conflicts, consider appointing an estates professional, like a lawyer or a trust companyTrust company A company that offers the same services as a bank, but can also manage estates, trusts and pension plans, which banks cannot do.+ read full definition, as an executor.
2. Consider naming more than one executor
For example, you could name a family member and a lawyer or trust company as co-executors.
3. Name a back-up
Consider naming a back-up executor in case your first choice can’t take on the role for some reason.
Even if you only name a family member or friend as executor, they may choose to hire a lawyer or estates professional to help them take care of certain aspects of the administration of your estate. This person would be paid by your estate. Certain tasks of an executor can be delegated but there is a limit as to what type of work can be delegated and the executor must ensure that they supervise and can be responsible for any losses that may occur.
Ask your chosen executor before appointing them in your will
Ask the person if they are willing to be your executor. A person is less likely to refuse to act when the time comes if they have been asked in advance. And if the person refuses, there will be time to choose someone else.