An executor/executrix is the personal representative of your estate. Executors have a number of important responsibilities. Here, we’ll explain what those responsibilities are, and how to choose the right executor.
The information contained here applies to estates in Manitoba. Though some of the general advice will be applicable to out-of-province estates, some of the information contained within may not apply outside of Manitoba. In all cases (in or out of province), you should speak with your legal counsel regarding all matters related to your estate.
What is an executor?
The executor, also known as the estate representative, is the administrator of a deceased person’s estate. An executor may be the deceased’s friend or family. You can also hire someone to be your executor.
The will of the deceased should name an executor, or two or more co-executors. In cases where there is no will, or an executor is not named in the will, the next-of-kin may apply to be the executor.
If you’re named in a will as executor, you do not need to accept the responsibility of executor. Should you renounce your role as executor, an alternate executor named in the will may take on the role. If there is no alternate executor, next-of-kin may apply to be the executor.
What are the executor’s duties?
Executors have an array of duties. The role of executor can be incredibly complicated. These duties may include*:
Making Winnipeg funeral and burial arrangements
Locating the deceased’s final will
Paying estate fees
Locating and notifying all beneficiaries named in the will, or under the law if there is no will
Getting an appraisal for the value of the estate
Applying to have the will validated by a court (probate)
Completing a final tax return for the deceased, as well as any returns required for the estate
Putting a notice out for creditors notifying them that the person has died
Paying all debts owing by the deceased
Dividing the estate as outlined in the will (or legislation, if there is no will)
Providing financial information about the estate to the beneficiaries
*This list of duties is copied from The Government of Canada’s Being an estate representative page.
The duties listed above can take time, knowledge, energy, and money to complete. In appraising the value of an estate, for example, the executor must determine whether or not the estate is solvent or insolvent, and determine what transactions must occur to pay off debts.
Even locating and notifying all beneficiaries can be quite time-consuming, especially if a class of beneficiaries (such as “grandchildren”) is named. Things may become exceptionally complicated in scenarios with blended families, or with estates containing business shares, multiple properties, and other complex financial considerations.
Executors have a number of duties not explicitly named here, such as collecting CPP death benefits and cancelling credit cards. If you’re named as executor, it may be a good idea to get legal counsel to help you determine and complete your duties.
Is an executor paid for their work?
An executor can be paid for their work, but payment is not required. You can hire a professional executor - they, of course, will need to be paid for their work. Determining whether or not you should pay a friend or family for their work as executor is a personal decision.
The role of executor is not an easy one. An executor may need to take time off work to fulfill their duties. Keep this in mind, both when choosing your executor and when determining whether or not to compensate your executor.
As the executor, you may need to cover costs for the estate - real estate appraisals are a prime example of this. Record any costs you incur as executor, and keep the appropriate receipts - you may be entitled to reimbursement from the estate.
How do I choose the right executor?
When choosing an executor, it can be tempting to select a friend or a member of your family. People you love and trust can make excellent executors. In some scenarios, however, it can be better to choose a professional executor, or to split duties between a professional executor and a family member. Professionals are especially useful when your finances are complicated, or when you have a blended family.
Your executor should be someone competent and trustworthy. Choose an executor who has their own finances in order. Things you consider when looking for a potential executor include:
Proximity (the closer they live to you, the better)
Knowledge of finances and estate management
Willingness to act as executor
Free time (the more the better)
That’s not an exhaustive list, but it should help you narrow down your options. Both your head and your heart play a role in who should be your executor. The choice is one you should think carefully about.
Let the person you want as your executor know that you want to choose them. This can help you avoid scenarios in which a would-be executor abdicates their role. As with everything in estate planning, the more prepared you and your executor are, the better.
Choosing the right executor can make the process of enacting your will much smoother. Think carefully about who you’re going to choose, consider choosing a professional, and speak to the person you choose as your executor.
We hope this guide has been helpful. Should you need more resources, feel free to reach out to us.