Family dynamics, complex legal responsibilities and grief can make managing an executorship a daunting task—but it is something you can prepare for.
On top of the emotional distress of losing a loved one, as an executor, you will be expected to deal with legal and financial issues.
What things should you consider?
Ask yourself these questions—whether you’re considering the request or have already been named an executor.
1. Do you live in the same city as the person who has made the request?
Many executor duties need to be completed in person. It is a lot more costly, time-consuming and inconvenient if you have to travel.
2. Do you have the time?
Being an executor takes a lot of time. Learning about the various duties of executorship will help you better understand what and when things need to happen.
Based on our experience, an executor can expect a simple estate settlement to take approximately 250 hours of direct involvement. A more complex estate could take more than 400 hours, typically over the course of at least a year—and it is not unheard of to have matters continue for much longer than that.
3. Do you know what to do?
Here is a checklist of executor duties. Generally, the main responsibilities are the below:
- Gather the required information and documents, including the will, and make funeral arrangements.
- Assess the estate’s assets and liabilities, including settling and paying any outstanding debts and claims against the estate.
- Take care of administrative details, such as filing all income tax returns (current and outstanding).
- Distribute the estate’s assets.
What if you can’t manage all the duties of an executor?
During what is likely to be an emotionally stressful time, missteps can occur. This can result in delays in the execution of the Will and could also lead to fractured family relationships, inefficient strategies for dealing with taxes on the estate, and less value for beneficiaries. As an executor, you might also be personally liable for your actions.
The good news is that if you’ve been made the executor of an estate, you don’t have to face these responsibilities alone. You can reach out to experts in executor services who you can hire to act as an agent for your executorship and walk you through the process.
Making an informed decision
Your choice of executor—or your acceptance of the role—is a decision that should not be made lightly. For many Canadians who have prepared a will, the choice of executor was likely one of the least considered parts of their plan. Most testators pick a family member or friend, without giving much thought to what the role entails. Likewise, many individuals take on the role of administering an estate without fully appreciating what they are getting into. There’s no doubt that being an executor can be difficult, but with some thoughtful planning and a little help, the challenges you’ll face can be overcome.