Common Mistakes Choosing Your Estate Executor

Some estate executors can’t handle the job. I continue to see expensive mistakes being made because the wrong executor was chosen.

I’ve seen people’s last remains languish in morgues because there was no will and no executor. No one can authorize the funeral and burial.

If you have no family in Ontario, you should not die without a will. Make a will to choose an executor. Name a back up executor. This is in case your first choice dies, declines or is unfit.

Estate Executors Are Also Fiduciaries

Your will does not need to tell your executor what to do in detail. They learn on the job. You only need to tell them who gets your valuables (money, house, etc.)

Estate executors have duties that are not written in the will. The law requires executors to act as fiduciaries. They must put the interests of creditors and estate beneficiaries before their personal interests. This can create a conflict of interest. Courts can remove executors who breach any fiduciary duty or are in a conflict of interest.

Common-Law Duties of Executors

The law requires executors to be ready to answer beneficiaries’ questions. This means at reasonable hours (not midnight). Executors keep records of every financial transaction and, if necessary, hire bookkeepers to record the ins and outs of every estate financial transaction.

Recent Ontario court decisions indicate that failure to keep all receipts is not a breach of fiduciary duty. You can use other methods to prove expenditures or expenses. These expenses must benefit the estate and not an executor’s personal needs. Keeping records and honesty are major requirements of your executor.

Online executor services will allow executors to track their expenditures.

Executor’s Pay

Ontario law allows executors to charge a fee. They are compensated for their time and trouble. Even though a will may be silent about executor compensation, executors are entitled to compensation when they complete their services. Lawyers can assist executors to calculate their fees.

Executors are to be honest, loyal and treat all beneficiaries with an even hand. They must inform beneficiaries and act personally.

If executors have discretion, they must act in good faith and not prefer one beneficiary over another.

Have questions about choosing executors or executor conflict of interest? Call me.