Preparing your executor for the job

Not everyone is cut out to be the executor for an estate, so it’s best to make sure your choice knows what they’re letting themselves in for ahead of time.

Testators typically have a fairly small roster of people close and trustworthy enough to even consider for such an important job, but the risk of scaring someone off is one worth taking if it filters out those lacking either the time or inclination to administer an estate; there’s nothing worse than picking an executor you assume will be willing, only for them to turn down the appointment when the time actually comes.

The best way to strike a balance is by engaging in a frank talk with your preferred executor, explaining why you want them to do the job and exactly what will be expected of them.

To help you out, here’s a summary of the key tasks an executor is expected to take care of during the administration of an estate.  

  • Locate the will: Finding the original will and any codicils one of the executor’s top priorities. We have a copy on file at our office, so this should be relatively straightforward. 
  • Funeral arrangements: The cost of the funeral typically comes out of the estate, but it’s the executor’s job to make everything happen. Although they usually proceed according to the deceased’s wishes, they’re not legally bound to follow those instructions.
  • Hire professionals: Lawyers, accountants and other professionals are always on hand to help with complex matters, but the executor is expected to coordinate any necessary work.
  • Establish assets and liabilities: Before anything can be paid out to beneficiaries, executors need to work out exactly what the deceased owned…and owed at the time of their death. Depending on the circumstances, they may need to advertise for creditors who may have a claim on the estate. 
  • Distribute assets: Once they’ve got a handle on what’s in the estate, executors can move on to distributing the assets to beneficiaries, according to the instructions in the will. 
  • Pay taxes: As well as paying the 1.5 per-cent Estate Administration Tax, which is due on all probated assets, executors must also file a tax return on behalf of the estate, which is subject to slightly different rules than individuals.
  • Probate: While it is possible to skip probate altogether, only certain assets can pass to beneficiaries without going through this process. Banks also typically require a court-issued certificate of appointment before an account can be opened in the name of the estate. 

Altogether, executors should expect to be in the job for at least a year. The appointment could last even longer if there are special items requiring extended supervision, such as a Henson Trust or unique requests and gifts relating to specific minors, dependants and other beneficiaries. 

After picking your executor, it’s a good idea to review your choice whenever you revisit your will as a whole, just to make sure they’re still in a position to act, and that you’re still confident they will do a good job. 

If you’re having trouble finding someone suitable among your friends and family, it may be worth approaching a trust company to administer your estate instead. 

Disclaimer: The content on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this web site are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Laredo Law (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues.