Estate Administrators: How They Get Court Appointed

When a person dies without a will, they cannot name an executor. There is no one in charge and the panic starts for your family. They need lawyers to find out what to do. You don’t want that for your grieving relatives.

The government has rules that specify who will take charge of your estate. The government’s rules are not flexible and specify who can apply to be your estate’s legal representative. This person is called a court appointed estate administrator. Ontario calls this person an estate trustee without a will.

Is there a big difference between an executor named in a will and an estate administrator?


When you write a will, you give your executor authority for the estate. In some cases, probating the will may not be required, so the executor can wrap up the estate quickly.

This is not the case when you have no will and, therefore, no executor.

Then, your relatives must apply and wait for the court to name them as estate administrators. If your relatives do not agree, this can be a lengthy and time-consuming legal process. There will be unnecessary complications and expense.

Tip: Name a backup executor in your will. If your first choice of estate trustee is unable to act, you have no one to administer your estate.

Dying Without A Will Is A Huge Problem

If Allison dies without a will, usually only her next living kin in the same jurisdiction can act as estate administrators.

You can imagine the delays this can cause as no one can pay Allison’s bills or distribute her assets. Things will move at a snail’s pace.

During the delay, no one is in charge of Allison’s financial affairs. No one can make decisions or gain access to her property. Banks and other financial institutions refuse to release any information to relatives when there is no estate executor.

Estate trustees without a will have limited powers. The court must expand the powers, for example, to operate a business. Estate administrators often must liquidate, or sell, a business quickly. They may not run it until a buyer can be found.

A will, however, can give an executor broader powers. These powers can allow them to run a business if necessary until they can sell it.

You can imagine that an executor running a business for an estate is taking huge risks:

  • Who is going to pay the employees, suppliers, landlords, banks and creditors?
  • Where is the money to come from?
  • What if the business loses money or someone sells it at a loss?

An estate trustee without a will would not take these risks.

If you have a business, make sure you have a will that allows the executor to operate it after you are gone without fearing lawsuits.

Are you a relative of a person who died without a will? Call 1.877.679.4557 (toll free) to contact me.

You can read some of my other posts on estates here:

New Estate Rights for Common Law Spouses

What Are the Three Estate Planning Documents You Need?

How Not to Probate Wills in Ontario – A Case Study

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and has authored seven books.

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This information is not financial, legal, tax advice or a substitute for professional advice. Always consult with a professional before taking any action.