Complex estates may call for a corporate executor

Testators with complex or contentious estates should think about appointing a corporate

Trust companies are certainly a more expensive option: you can expect them to charge a fee of
as much as five per cent of all assets that flow through the estate, compared with a trusted
friend or family member who may be prepared to do it for a token amount or no charge at all.
But the extra cost may be worth it if you’re struggling to recruit someone you know or worried
about the chances of litigation over the property you leave behind.

The role of executor is a tough one, and even those with the most straightforward estates can
find it difficult to appoint someone suitable who is also willing to take on the task.

If they know what to expect, prospective estate trustees are not always enthusiastic about the
idea that they could be in the job for at least a year, gathering financial information, signing
forms, filing taxes, paying off debts and distributing assets under the estate.

That’s not an issue for trust companies, whose teams of professionals have seen it all before
and know exactly what is expected of them.

A corporate executor also has a distinct outsider advantage: with no historic connection to the
deceased, they won’t take criticism from beneficiaries personally and they’ll find it easier to rise
above the fray when disputes are inevitably sparked by the emotional tumult and long-buried
resentments so often unleashed in the wake of a loved one’s death.

Even if you’ve already convinced a friend or family member to act as executor, you should
review the choice whenever you revisit your will as a whole – which should be happening every
few years or after major life events, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or a major
change in net worth.

A corporate executor may be worth considering if your original choice no longer wants to act or
if their circumstances have changed. For example, if you’ve picked an older estate trustee,
there’s a risk they may become incapacitated or even die before they can take up the role.
Meanwhile, Ontario courts may require an executor who has moved abroad to a non-
commonwealth country to post a bond covering twice the total value of the estate, which can
impose a significant cost, depending on the amount of assets at play.

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