EXECUTOR OF AN ESTATE
EXECUTOR OF AN ESTATE
If you are an executor/executrix you may wish to seek the help of professionals like lawyers and accountants. However, as the executor, you will be the person who is legally responsible for the administration of the estate. The information in this guide applies to cases where there is no disagreement about the appointment of the person who accepts to be the executor.
If the appointment is contested, or if you intend to oppose the appointment, you should seek legal advice and refer to the Supreme Court rules and forms for the process used in such cases.
IS IT MANDATORY FOR ME TO BE THE EXECUTOR?
In an ideal world, you would have been asked prior to being named the executor. It’s a conversation between family and friends that is important and mustn’t be taken lightly. If you have been named as an executor and you do not wish to act in that role, the law does not require you to do so.
If you are unable or unwilling to act as an executor, you must advise the co-executor, if there is one, the alternate executor named in the will (if one has been identified), or the family of the deceased of your decision. Where there is no known next of kin, the Public Guardian and Trustee may assume administration of an estate as an administrator of last resort. If the deceased person has a spouse, child, sibling or close friend who is capable of acting as the administrator of the estate, it is always best to have them administer the estate.
DON’T PROFESSIONALS DO THIS FOR ME?
It may be helpful to contact a lawyer following the death of a family member. A lawyer may expedite the process of administering the estate. If you do not have a lawyer, contact the Canadian Bar Association to find out about your provincial law society and what they can provide.
You can also call the Lawyer Referral Service within your province to give you the name of a lawyer who can help you. A lawyer can assist you when:
- Probate is required • The deceased held property in his/her name
- There are multiple executors and/or beneficiaries
- No legal will exists
DO I NEED TO WORK WITH THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
An executor is considered the legal representative of the estate. The executor is the person who will discuss with third parties about matters relating to the deceased’s personal affairs and, in some cases, business affairs. An executor is responsible for advising any beneficiaries identified in the will of the contents of the will and for providing information to those beneficiaries about the administration of the estate.
An executor is expected to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries when handling the estate assets. Keeping the beneficiaries informed is an important function of the executor’s role. Sometimes an executor has to deal with difficult situations, such as when a child or spouse is not included as a beneficiary in the will, or when the distribution of the estate does not adequately account for the financial needs of a dependent adult.
In such cases the executor may need to speak to a lawyer to obtain advice on how to proceed. A dependent may have a legal claim to the estate and may also require legal advice and representation.
IS THERE A CHECKLIST I CAN USE?
Yes, we developed the complete NEAP package to help you with many of the required documents, forms, and tasks you may be called upon to settle an estate. However, not all estates are the same and there may be additional unique issues that may arise.
WHAT ABOUT DEBTS?
An executor may also have to deal with creditors of the estate, so it is important to be aware of the estate’s assets and debts. This will allow the executor access to estate funds. It is not uncommon for an executor to feel pressured to pay any outstanding debts immediately, but the appropriate time to pay these debts depends on the complexities of the estate.
The executor will be responsible for paying those outstanding debts, and also for paying the funeral expenses from funds within the estate. If the will is probated, often an executor may not be permitted to settle outstanding debts of the deceased until there has been a court ordered Grant of Probate. Where there is an insolvent estate, it is very important for an executor to examine and verify all the deceased’s debts. It is also important that the debts are paid before distributing any of the estate to the beneficiaries.
CLOSING AN ESTATE
Closing an estate may require completing a series of financial and other transactions. To help you feel confident in your role, Beechwood offers to personalize many of the documents and Government forms which must be completed. Beechwood can provide valuable assistance for many of the tasks that executors and survivors must deal with when settling an estate.
The Beechwood National Executor Assistance Personalized Program prepares all the enclosed notifications, letters and Government forms included in this NEAP package. We know this time in your life is hard enough without needing the extra burden, both emotional or financial, of being the executor.