Help, I’m an Executor

Estate Planning and Litigation

An executor is a person appointed in a will to carry out the terms of the will. As an executor, your powers and responsibilities may arise from both the will and the law. You are generally responsible for gathering the deceased’s estate assets, paying the deceased’s debts, and distributing the remaining assets among the beneficiaries. Here are tasks that you may be required to do:

  • locate the last will;
  • take steps to protect the assets;
  • make burial and funeral arrangements;
  • obtain death certificates;
  • notify beneficiaries;
  • notify creditors;
  • prepare a list of assets and liabilities;
  • probate the will;
  • pay the debts;
  • file income tax returns; and
  • distribute the assets.

The tasks and the amount of time required to perform them will depend on the complexity of the estate. The following is an excerpt from the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch on being an executor:

If you decide to act as the executor, consider whether to hire a lawyer to do the paperwork and advise you of your obligations. If you do, the estate pays the lawyer’s fees. Ask the lawyer how the legal fees will be calculated, whether as a percentage of the estate or on an hourly basis. But because unexpected matters often arise in estates, it may not be possible to get an exact estimate of the fees. It’s a good idea to hire a lawyer for any estate involving the distribution of assets through a will, where a grant of probate is required. For most estates, it’s also a good idea to also hire an accountant to help with the several tax returns that need to be filed, as proper filing of returns and payment of taxes is one of the executor’s responsibilities.

Being an executor can be daunting, so you should carefully consider whether you want to accept the role of executor. If you do choose to be the executor, be aware that the responsibilities require a considerable amount of your time and energy.