So you’ve been asked to be an executor…

Disclaimer: This article about the executor’s duties in Ontario is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

So you’ve been asked to be an executor…now what?

If someone has asked you to be their executor, it’s likely because the person who has named you in their will trusts you to carry out their final wishes. While it may be an honor to be chosen, an executor’s duties in Ontario come with a lot of responsibility.

We want you to go into the role knowing what to expect, so in this article, we will outline what is expected of you as an executor, answer some frequently asked questions and help you guide this very important decision.

As with any legal matter, it’s important to talk to a knowledgeable estate lawyer  to ensure you understand all the complexities and your rights and responsibilities as an executor. Book a call with our team today.

First though, what is an executor?

What is an executor?

An executor is the person that someone appoints in a will to carry out their instructions once they have passed on. This includes managing any assets, paying debts and distributing any remaining property according to the wishes of the deceased, as outlined  in the will.

The executor has many responsibilities and must act in the best interest of the estate and the beneficiaries.

Can an executor also be a beneficiary?

Yes, the executor can also be a beneficiary of the estate.

What are an executor’s duties in Ontario?

The executor’s duties in Ontario include being able to execute, or carry out, the wishes of the deceased as set out in their will.

Specifically, this  includes:

– Gathering and inventorying the assets of the estate

– Paying any debts and taxes owed by the deceased

– Distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries

The executor has a legal duty to act in the best interest of the estate and the beneficiaries. 

What should I keep in mind if I’m asked to be an executor?

Sometimes, we are so eager to help our loved ones that we say yes to being an executor without really thinking it through. But being an executor is a big responsibility and it’s important to make sure you are up for the task before you agree.

Consider these factors:

– Do you live close to the deceased? If not, it may be difficult to manage the estate from a distance.

– Do you have the time? Executors are often also working full-time and taking care of their own families. If you don’t think you can commit the time, it’s best to say no.

– Are you organized and detail oriented? This is a must. When you handle someone’s estate, there is a lot of paperwork.

– Do you get along with the beneficiaries? If there is already tension among the beneficiaries, it may be best to bow out gracefully.

– Are you up for the challenge? Being an executor can be emotionally and mentally challenging, as well as time-consuming. Make sure you are prepared for the journey ahead.

It is important to note that this is not a short-term commitment. On average, it takes about 3 years for the estate to close. So , if you’re not prepared for the long haul, it’s best to say no.

As well, you will need to loan the estate for such expenses as the funeral and any probate taxes. You can be found personally liable to the estate’s creditors. This could be a substantial amount of money, so make sure you are financially prepared for this possibility.

If you are preparing your own estate plan, there are ways to lessen this burden on your executor. For example, some people opt to have a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) with funds specifically earmarked for this purpose, or will prepay for their funeral arrangements.

What should I do if someone appoints me their executor?

First, you will want to speak to a lawyer.  They can help you understand the role of executor and your responsibilities.

Then, you should take some time to read the will and make sure you understand the wishes of the deceased. If there is anything you’re unsure about, ask the lawyer for clarification.

Once you have a good understanding of what is expected of you, you and your lawyer will determine if you need to apply for probate. Most estates require this step.

Your lawyer can help you with the probate application and guide you through the process.  You will then need to  notify the beneficiaries of the estate and provide them with a copy of the will.

After that, you can begin to gather the assets and start paying any debts or taxes owing.  You’ll want to be sure that you capture all creditors and will even want to advertise in a local paper for three weeks. 

Once all debts have been paid, you can begin distributing the asseets to the beneficiaries. You will likely opt to hold some funds back to pay any taxes or  debts that may arise after the distribution has been made.

You will also need to prepare and file tax returns for the deceased as well as the estate. Once all of that is cared for, you can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Throughout this process, you will need to keep accurate accounting records showing  all income, expenses and distributions made. These records will need to be provided to the beneficiaries upon request.

Handling a Weighty Responsibility

The role of executor can be complex and time-consuming. But it is also an important role that comes with a great deal of responsibility. If you have been named as an executor, make sure you understand what is expected of you.

Of course, any task is easier when you have the proper support.  And that’s where we come in. We are here to help you through the process and make things as easy as possible.

So, if you have been named executor, give us a call. We can help you understand your role and responsibilities and provide you with the support you need to get the job done right.

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