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An important part of the will-writing process is choosing someone to be the executor of the will – the person who is responsible for administering the estate’s assets. There are a number of factors that go into the decision, as it’s not always as simple as picking a close family member or friend. The job of an executor can be complex, involving many different tasks as they prepare the estate for distribution to beneficiaries. Before choosing the executor of your estate, it’s important to understand who is eligible to be an executor, and who would be a good fit for the role.
Almost anyone can be named as the executor of a will in BC. This can include beneficiaries named in the will, a spouse, a best friend or even a lawyer. The only requirement is that the executor is not a minor (they must be 19 years of age or older). Keep in mind that just because anyone can be named as executor does not mean that they will be a good executor.
Will-writers are able to name multiple people as executors of their will – known as co-executors. This can be a good idea in some cases as it eases the workload onto multiple people, however, co-executors must agree to all decisions made on behalf of the estate. This can further complicate or prolong the estate administration process. Frequently, parents choose to name all of their children as co-executors in the interest of fairness. If some of the children have moved away, the task of coordinating the administration process can become more difficult. Naming co-executors can be beneficial in some cases, but can be detrimental in others. It is important to carefully consider who you appoint executor of your estate, and in cases of co-executorship, it is essential that the executors are able to work well together.
For will-writers looking for a truly neutral, indifferent party to act as their executor, a lawyer, accountant, or corporate trustee can be appointed executor. This will obviously cost more than naming a close friend or family member would, however, it will ensure that the estate is administered at a professional level. Sometimes, people choose to name a professional and a family member as co-executors. This way, the family member can handle most of the estate affairs with the professional assisting when needed and ensuring that the estate administration is done properly. For more information, read our blog on whether you should appoint a professional executor or not.
Being named as an estate’s executor involves a lot of responsibility and authority that could be abused if put into the hands of the wrong person. Because of this, will-writers should be sure that they are choosing the right person to be named as executor of their will. Typically, it’s recommended that will-writers choose an executor who is objective, trustworthy, living in the same city as them, and willing to take on the responsibilities of the role.
Executors are tasked with acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the estate by closely following the directions left in the will. If the executor is named as a beneficiary in the will, which they often are, they should always be acting from an objective standpoint. The executor cannot act in ways to maximize their benefit from the estate at the cost of other beneficiaries’ entitlements. Objectivity is essential to the estate administration process and it’s important that the executor can take a neutral position when making decisions on behalf of an estate.
Because of the authority and power that an executor has over the distribution of an estate, will-writers should always name someone who they feel is trustworthy. Estate administration can involve handling large amounts of money – paying unpaid debts owed by the estate, selling estate assets, etc. Even though executors must provide a detailed account of everything that went in and out of the estate, an interested party must be very thorough to notice if the executor has attempted theft. If theft or fraudulent behaviour is identified there are remedies available, but it can often entail a lengthy court process. This will ultimately delay the entire estate distribution process.
Naming an executor who is living near the place where the estate assets reside is very important. If someone who lives outside of Canada is named as executor, there can be significant tax complications as they transfer the estate’s assets around. Further, they will run into a number of obstacles trying to fulfill all of their responsibilities while abroad. It is always recommended that the executor be someone who lives in the same city as the assets, or someone who can easily travel to the city for an extended period of time to administer the estate.
If you are named the executor of an estate in a will, you will not be forced to take on the role. Will-writers should talk with the people who they want to be their executor to ensure that they are willing and prepared to take on the responsibility. Someone who is unwilling or reluctant to administer the estate is less likely to do a good job of the administration, or could cause significant delays in the distribution of the estate. Even if you think someone would be a great fit for the job, you must make sure they are willing. Usually, the executor’s job requires significant time and energy, and the role can place a large burden on some. If your estate is large and complex, it can feel like a second full-time job to your executor as they work to administer your estate. Ensuring that an executor understands the role they’re agreeing to and the tasks which they’ll be responsible for is important in making sure they can handle the job. It is advisable to discuss the role with the person who one would like to name as their executor before their death, as if an executor renounces their title after the death of a testator, the courts will have to appoint a new one which may conflict with one’s final wishes.
Ultimately, it’s up to the will-writer to choose who their executor should be. If you’re unsure who your estate’s executor should be, contact an experienced estate lawyer today. We can help you to pick someone who will properly administer your estate.