Duties of an Executor

So you have been named as an executor in someone else’s will. What now? The first thing to note is that you are not obligated to act. You can renounce the position, though you must do so in the appropriate fashion, which includes a specific court form. If you choose to act though, there are four core tasks you must perform, all with keeping the singular goal of acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries named in the will. These four core tasks are: identifying estate assets and liabilities, administering and managing the estate, satisfying the debts and obligations of the estate finally, distributing and accounting for the administration of the estate. If you do not perform these four core takes, you may be personally liable.

Identifying Estate Assets and Liabilities

This task means you must determine the full nature and value of all property and debts held by the deceased and includes applying for pensions, death benefits, life insurance, transferring bank accounts into the estate name and arranging for a list of the contents of a safety deposit box. It is important that you are thorough in this task as you must account to the beneficiaries in the fourth core task.

Administering and Managing the Estate

This task comprises all the activities you must do to keep the estate active and includes creating and maintaining records of the property and activities of the estate, communicating with beneficiaries on a regular basis, protecting estate property, applying for a grant of probate or bringing any questions before court, commencing or defending legal claims and preparing financial statements. The wills drafted at Alberta Wills Online afford an executor the opportunity to hire agents to complete any of these tasks. The most common agents hired in estates are accountants to prepare the financial records and file tax returns and lawyers to obtain the grant of probate. The fees for agents will come from the estate.

Satisfying Debts and Obligations

As executor, it is your responsibility to make sure all the creditors of an estate get paid, including Canada Revenue Agency. As such, this task includes determining the tax liability of the estate, paying existing and ongoing debts and liabilities and determining whether the estate should advertise for creditors. As an executor, you are entitled to be reimbursed for reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred (particularly as you wait for the grant of probate and may not have access to estate assets.

Distributing and Accounting

This tax requires you to identify each of the beneficiaries and notify them of their interests, administering any testamentary trusts, preparing a distribution schedule and actually transferring assets from the estate to each beneficiary. It is important to note that a distribution is a two-part process- all assets covered by a will must first be transferred to the estate, then to the individual beneficiaries.

Being an executor can be a lot of work and carries a high level of responsibility and duty to the beneficiaries. As such, it is imperative that you consider very carefully the people you name as executor and ensure you select people who are up to the task.

Duties of an Executor

Why Do I Need a Will?

There are 2 important reasons why a person should have a will though both, or neither, may apply to everyone. The first reason deals with your assets and how you would like those assets to be dealt with when you die. Without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the legislated intestacy rules which will likely not reflect your wishes. For example, if you pass away and are married with children, and all of the children are both your and your spouses, your spouse will receive all your assets. However, if you pass away and are married, but you have children who are not your spouses, your spouse will get a preferential share and the remainder will be divided among your spouse and children. If your estate is small, this may mean your spouse gets everything if the value of your estate is less than the preferential share. In addition, if you do not wish one of your children to inherit an equal share or if you wish your children to inherit at an age other than 18, this cannot be dictated without a will. A will allows you to state your wishes and maintain control over your assets. Even if the intestacy rules reflect what you would like to happen, everyone has a different idea on what is “fair” and what is “equal” so a will can provide guidance for your heirs in distributing your assets.

The second, and arguably more important reason, pertains to people with minor children. You will name a guardian for your minor children in your will. Without naming a guardian, your wishes may not be known and therefore not respected and this could cause great strife among your family members. In the worst case scenario, your children could end up in foster care if no one steps forward to care for them.

In any event, the only way to have your wishes be known and followed is to have a will.

Why Do I Need a Will?