Good advice.

Good advice.

Wills and Estates Planning – Executors and Their Duties

When you are talking with a lawyer regarding your estate planning, a topic that will come up immediately is who the executor is going to be. 

What is an Executor?

An executor, or an executrix, administers an individual’s estate when they pass away based on the information the deceased left in their Last Will and Testament and in accordance with all applicable laws. This individual will be tasked with settling your estate and distributing the remaining funds pursuant to your wishes. Therefore, it is imperative that you select someone you feel comfortable with. 

What does an Executor do?

The tasks of the executor include collecting debts, paying bills, selling property and/or businesses, filing a final tax return for both the individual and their estate and finally distributing the assets to the beneficiaries of your Last Will and Testament. This individual will work closely with legal representatives and accountants to finalize the estate as well as constantly communicate with the heirs on a regular basis. The executor, however, does not have any ability to alter your Last Will and Testament. It is their duty to act in the best interests of the estate and to carry out your wishes as intended.

How do I choose an Executor?

During the course of developing and scripting your estate plan, you should be thinking of who best to name to take charge of caring for your estate. This could be any person you feel comfortable with, possibly a family member, a friend, or even a professional organization. 

The executor is named and identified within your Last Will and Testament. However, if you fail to name any individual, the courts will be placed in charge of appointing an administrator to execute your wishes, which could result in appointing someone you may not want.

Choose someone who is comfortable.

The role of an executor can be very challenging and stressful, it is therefore very important to choose someone that is comfortable in this position. Although it is an honour to be chosen by someone to execute their final wishes, it can also be a burden. Communicate with your potential executor and ask if they feel comfortable with being put in such a position.

Choose someone that is available.

Although it may seem prudent to select someone in your immediate family to become your executor, it is also important that this individual has the ability to execute your wishes. Selecting an individual who resides in another city or country may affect their ability to effectively and efficiently settle the estate. Further, it is important to select someone you believe will be alive and in good health long after you pass to avoid any issues down the road.

Choose someone you trust.

The executor is the individual who will be executing your final wishes, therefore, having someone you know to be trustworthy will help ease your mind. Although the estate planning is done in your Last Will and Testament is legally binding, it is still important to have someone you know will effectively execute your wishes and represent you.

Can I choose more than one Executor?

You may appoint as many people as you wish to become your executor. For example, if you have two children that you want to share the position they may be appointed as joint executors. Meaning any decision made requires both individuals to agree prior to any execution. You may also wish to appoint a professional executor such as a trust company, professional individual or a financial institution who specializes in estate work alongside a family member. However, be advised that when you select multiple executors, they must agree in order to move the estate forward and in some cases, disagreement between executors can stall an estate for years.

We also highly recommend you choose a backup executor. Someone who will be able to become the executor in the case that your first choice should pass away prior to you or become incapable of the position.  

Let us guide you.

Estate planning can be an arduous and complex task. Contacting one of our lawyers allows you to ask further questions and garner advice on who best to name as an executor and how best to structure your estate planning. 

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