The executor of a will is the personal representative of the deceased and is charged with the duty of distributing the deceased’s assets in the manner directed by him or her in the will. One or more persons may be appointed.

You might choose to name a professional executor, such as a lawyer, accountant or trust company. A professional executor will charge fees, and any decisions made will not be based on a first hand, personal relationship with you or your family. What are the advantages for appointing a professional executor?

  • A professional executor has expertise and experience in handling estates.
  • He/she can provide objective information.
  • Naming a professional may avoid potential problems that naming a family member as your executor may create.

Choose your executor carefully. Consider the following factors:

  • Complexity of the estate
  • Fees of professional executors
  • Proximity of executor to property of estate
  • Inclination of appointee to devote the time to do a proper job
  • Compatibility

If the estate and family situation are straightforward, a willing relative or a close friend is often appointed as the cheaper alternative to a professional. While he/she must have good judgment and integrity, it isn’t necessary to be a financial expert. If difficulties arise, the executor may choose to hire experts as needed. You may want to name a contingent, or alternate executor, in case your first choice is unable to perform the role when you die.

To help you select the most appropriate executor for your will, the individual you choose should have the following characteristics:

  • Must be willing to accept and fulfill the responsibility
  • Should be expected to outlive the person making the will
  • Should be a responsible and competent person
  • Must be a person you can trust with this responsibility

After you die, your executor makes funeral arrangements and ensures that all tax liabilities for your estate are paid, through the filing of tax returns. The executor has the power to distribute your estate according to the instructions in your will.

The executor must have a firm grasp of your financial affairs. Be sure to keep accurate and complete records of your financial documents and a list of your professional advisors and personal documents. Include a statement of your net worth so that the executor knows the value of your various assets.

Did You Know?

  • You can appoint more than one person (co-executors) to act simultaneously.
  • Co-executors must agree and sign off on the estate.
  • An executor can refuse to act.
  • An executor who resides out of province or country may have to post a surety bond in order to act.
  • An executor may also be a beneficiary of the will.
  • An executor may witness a will.
  • An executor can overrule family on funeral arrangements.