Who will be your executor?

This brief lecture targets everyone, not specifically elder orphans, nevertheless it is an essential element of all estate plans. I’ll keep it brief.

There was a time when being invited to be an executor of an estate was not something to be feared and avoided, but rather considered an honour and a privilege. However over the years, that has changed drastically and it is definitely not something that I would agree to unless there were really no other options available to the person requesting my help. My only personal experience is in the Province of Ontario but I expect that most other legal jurisdictions are moving in a direction that makes the experience much more daunting.

When appointed as an executor there is a great deal of time consuming work to do and a lot of responsibility and you had better be good at keeping records. Here in my Province of Ontario there was a time when you could simply take your best guess as to the value of the assets in the estate and pay the probate tax. As of January 1st, 2015 the Ministry of Finance wants to see details on all bank accounts, real estate property, vehicles and any other assets. The province also suggests executors contact professional appraisers to make sure the valuations are accurate.

When deciding on an Executor be sure to consider if they have the time and the skill to undertake the work and do they have the personality to negotiate on behalf of your estate. I have heard of situations where major charitable organizations have had their lawyers at the table disputing what share of the deceased assets should be allocated to each of them. These discussions are not for the faint-of-heart. Of course it is assumed that you have complete trust in your choice. Another consideration is where the executor lives. In Ontario the task becomes a great deal simpler if the executor also resides in our province. If you decide on co-executors, at least one of them should live in the same province. Will they be able to get along with other executors if you have decided to name more than one? Will they be fair and loyal to your wishes? Will they out-live you?

Here is a list of the tasks that an Executor must deal with as compiled by the Bank of Montreal. Whomever you select should fully understand the duties and responsibilities that they are signing on for. In this post I have presented the facts as I understand them in my home Province of Ontario. Depending on where you live, your mileage may vary so be sure to investigate the nuances of the regulations in your province or state.

One appealing solution as to how to settle on an executor may be to appoint a person that you trust, then, as co-executor choose a professional organization that has the experience and resources to carry the burden and take on all of the detailed work. They may be expensive however you may be comforted in the knowledge that before any steps can be taken, both parties will need to agree.

Finally, you should talk to the person that you have selected to be your executor to determine that they are interested in assuming the role. They are under no obligation to accept the responsibility. They are however able to hire professionals such as lawyers and accountants to assist them in their duties and whose fees would be covered by the estate. And they are entitled to be paid. It may be a good idea to add those details to the will.

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