Choosing an Executor

A Will is a legal document that sets out what will happen after you die to (most of) your property and any minor children. It’s an important legal document, and one every adult should have.

If you have considerable assets, if your Will might be contested, or if it’s complicated, it is wise to pay for the help of a professional. If it’s simple and straightforward and you have access to technology, you can create one at no cost. (See the My Law BC website.)

One of the most important considerations when creating a Will is deciding who will be your executor. Since circumstances could change, and the executor(s) you chose may not be available at the time of need, it is also important to choose an alternate executor(s) to be named in the Will.

Your executor(s) is someone whom you can trust and is able to carry out the instructions you have set out in your Will. This is a big job, not an honour. Choose carefully! When selecting an executor(s), consider the following:

(a) Does your executor live in Canada? If your executor is foreign, your estate may be subject to that country’s estate taxation laws. Choose a Canadian resident.

(b) Is your executor able to handle the responsibility? It is a lot of work. Do they have the expertise? Are they organized, and able to deal with accountants and lawyers? Are they emotionally strong?

(c) Can you trust your executor to carry out your wishes?

(d) Do the beneficiaries respect and trust the executor? Note that a beneficiary can also be an executor.

(e) Has your executor agreed to do this job? Do they know what it entails?

(f) If you have more than one executor, do they get along with one another? It is generally more expedient to appoint only one executor plus an alternate, rather than appointing multiple co-executors. If you do have more than one, it may be best to have an odd number, and to specify in the Will that the majority rules.

(g) Consider an executor from a younger generation. If from your own generation, your executor’s age may influence their ability to carry out the duties.

Though costly, it is sometimes advisable to hire a lawyer, accountant or a professional trust company to be your executor. This is especially true with a complex estate, when there is a potential for discord or risk of litigation, or when you have no other suitable options.

A Will comes into effect only after the death of the Will maker. It may also be wise to give someone authority to handle financial and legal matters for you if you become incapable while still alive. This requires a different legal document called a Power of Attorney, which will be the subject of another article.

Written by Margaret Verschuur