What does an executor do?
An executor1 is a person who will be in charge of your assets after you die. They are tasked with making sure that the bills and debts are paid, all taxes collected, any property sold or disposed of properly, and anything else necessary to finalize your affairs according to your wishes.
An executor can either be an individual appointed by you as stated in a will or trust agreement, someone named on record at the court where probate is filed for the deceased’s estate (called an “administrator”), somebody from among those interested parties listed in the law called “next-of-kin,” such as spouses, children living under one roof together with their grandchildren – if they’re minors – or other relatives like siblings; friends; or co-workers.
Choosing someone that will not complicate the process is often a concern for those who are considering naming an executor in their estate plan, so it’s important to ask prospective candidates about their willingness and ability to serve as well as any obstacles you might run into with them being your choice.
It may be easier if they’re relatives because of all the conversations already had while living together, but finding an interested party among friends or co-workers can work just as well sometimes. The critical thing here is that this person must have the time and interest to do what needs doing on behalf of another due after death; otherwise, it could become more stressful than anticipated before setting out down this path at all.
Who can be an executor of a will?
Executors are usually the person who is named to take care of a deceased’s will. They ensure that all financial and legal affairs are dealt with responsibly, including paying off debts, distributing assets according to the terms set out in the deceased’s last will (or sometimes intestacy), filing tax returns for any final year(s) on behalf of someone before they died as well as ensuring death benefits from Social Security2 or life insurance policies go where they need to if there was no other plan made for those items.
Some people choose their spouse to be executors but make sure you have an agreement about how things might work before you do something like this. It can hurt them financially if not done the right way.
The executor is named in your last will (or sometimes intestacy). They’re usually somebody you trust to do an excellent job of handling things after you die. However, there may be other people involved as well: agents for assets like bank accounts or investments, co-executors if more than one person were named to carry out an estate’s business, attorneys that have been assigned by a court when probate can’t happen without legal representation.
Suppose no executor is chosen before someone dies. In that case, the personal representative typically becomes the default executor – which means they’ll need to file any tax returns due during their lifetime, too (even if this won’t affect the estate).
There are other things to consider when choosing an executor, including whether they’re willing and able to do the job. You might also want a co-executor so that if one person is unable or unwilling to fulfil their responsibilities, there’s somebody else who can step in instead (which avoids burdening your remaining family members with too much responsibility at once).
What makes a good executor?
A good executor will be committed to fulfilling their role, taking care of the person’s wishes and representing them in a way they would have wanted.
Some people might find it hard to choose among relatives or friends – but you can always ask for someone else if there are any concerns about impartiality.
It is not uncommon for an executor to request compensation during this time, so ensure everyone knows whether the estate should pay out anything before choosing one. You may also want to consider appointing more than one executor, which could help arrange funerals and final expenses with heirs who live far away from each other.
Family members as executors:
All family members of a deceased person are eligible to serve as executors and caretakers. The best candidates for an executor are those who knew the individual well, have a close relationship with them, or act independently in cases where they might lack impartiality when dealing with other relatives.
When choosing between different family members, it’s worth considering:
- Which people have good financial sense? Are there any potential beneficiaries that need protection from possible fraud? Who is knowledgeable about estate law/terminology and has experience working on wills (such as lawyers)?
- Do all parties want to do this job? If not, choose someone else! You may also want to consider appointing more than one executor if you live far away from your property or if you have many assets.
- Which people can act independently? If any family members cannot be trusted to remain impartial when dealing with other relatives, it may not be a good idea for them to serve as executors/caretakers.
- Who can manage the time required for this role? It’s worth considering how much free time each potential candidate has and their abilities in managing finances and tasks related to estate management. You’ll want someone who is organized.
Solicitors, banks and accountants as executors:
- A solicitor or attorney will be the most qualified person to deal with a legal estate.
- Executors often use-Banks as their standing can help establish good credit with lenders and offer clear guidelines for managing estates in terms of bank accounts, etcetera.
- Accountants are typically used when there’s an extensive amount of financial data at hand.
If you’re looking for a solicitor or attorney, ask them if they have experience handling estates and explaining the process to clients. If you want someone with financial qualifications, then make sure that your appointed executor has skills in investing and managing funds and working closely with banks on estate matters such as wills, etcetera.
If you don’t have anyone who can be an executor
The government makes provisions for those who are unable to appoint an executor. This is typically done through the Public Trustee’s Office, and they can take over from there with regards to property or funds, etcetera.
When selecting a trustee, your choices should be someone you trust implicitly because this person will have access to all of your financial information, which could include credit card bills and bank statements, as well as any other personal details associated with finances, such as how much money you make each month. They’ll also need contact numbers so that they can get in touch quickly if necessary when making decisions on behalf of the estate.
When you have chosen your executor
You’ll want to make sure that this person will have the time necessary to do their job.
You should also be aware that it is not uncommon for executors or trustees of estates in Canada, at least those appointed by an individual, to charge a fee (in addition to any legal fees). This can range from $400 up into the thousands and varies based on proximity and experience and what services they provide. Costs may even vary depending on whether you opt-out of using probate, which could save your estate about 75% overall if applicable.
An Executor does more than just making decisions about how property is distributed within an estate. They are there to act as a point of contact for the beneficiaries; they make sure estate taxes and other legal obligations are paid, they manage property that’s been left in trust.
What powers should I give my executor?
This is a question that requires some thought. The executor needs to be authorized by the will, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they need every power granted in the document. It might make more sense for your executor to take on as few powers as possible to avoid conflict with beneficiaries and other parties involved in settling an estate. Leave them with just enough authority to carry out their duties of appointing heirs or trustees (if necessary), paying taxes and bills, managing property left in trust- these are tasks most people qualify for without being established explicitly by a will.
Can an executor take everything?
No. The executor does not need to take everything that’s in a will- they need enough authority to carry out their duties of appointing heirs or trustees (if necessary), paying taxes and bills, managing property left in trust.
Can the executor of will also be a beneficiary?
Yes, but if they are the executor of a will and receive something from that choice- for example, an inheritance or life insurance payoff- then their decision must be made in good faith.
Can executor cheat beneficiaries?
No. Suppose the executor is also a beneficiary from that will. In that case, their decision must be made in good faith- which means they cannot profit from any part of the estate for themselves if they are managing it on behalf of those who inherit.
Choose the executor you trust. Executors are tasked with a lot of responsibility for administering an estate, so make sure that they can be trusted and have integrity before making them your executor. If no one, in particular, fits this description, choose someone based on their availability or expertise instead. You want to find somebody who will do the best job possible for your family after you’ve passed away.