I’m the executor, but not a family member, and it’s getting awkward

Non family executor challenges and tips

Non family executor challenges and tipsHave you been named the executor but your not a family member?  Being executor of an estate can be a tough job. After all, you are required to gather all of the estate assets, pay the person’s debts and divide what remains of their estate amongst their beneficiaries. It can be challenging, overwhelming, time-consuming and emotionally draining.

And, if we’re being honest here, it can be an even tougher job if you find yourself settling an estate on behalf of a friend or distant relative while their family members look over your shoulder. If you find yourself in this position, we have some advice to make the process a little less awkward.

First though, let’s take a quick look at why you may have been named executor of an estate instead of a close family member.

  1. The person whose estate you are settling may have asked you because they knew their family would fight with each other over it. The thing about family is that they have a history together, and sometimes it’s a rocky one. Death doesn’t always bring out the best in people, which means you may be keeping the peace as well as settling the estate.
  2. Families don’t stay together, geographically speaking, as they once did. Immediate family members can often be found in all corners of the globe. In these cases, it can make it difficult to appoint a family member as executor (While it’s not impossible, it may not be advisable).
  3. Some parents don’t want to burden their children with the responsibility of having to administer their estates. Instead, they turn to a trusted friend or distant relative.

In all of these cases (as well as if you were chosen to be the executor for other reasons), some family members may feel angry or hurt for not having been chosen as the executor. Even if they didn’t want to be the executor, they may feel angry or hurt that a non-family member was asked to take on this important and significant job.

Here are three ways to make the job of being executor a little less awkward:

  1. Follow a task list. There’s a long list of items you need to do and an order you need to them in. (Here are the highlights). This Government of Canada list is also a helpful resource. By following a list, family members will see that you are doing everything by the book.
  2. Maintain transparent records. Keep a record of every action you take, every professional (such as a lawyer or accountant) you speak with and every dollar you need to spend. This allows you to show your efforts to anyone that asks.
  3. Communicate regularly with beneficiaries. No one likes being left in the dark. Give regular updates on your progress to all relevant parties.

 Remember, just because you have been named as executor, doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. You can hire help, such as an accountant to do the income tax filing or a realtor to sell the property. We can also advise on all legal issues related to the estate.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. It is not intended to replace actual legal advice. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.