The description below is to assist you, when drafting your will, to choose an appropriate executor. It is not a complete description of the duties and role of executors. Much more information is found in our eBook, Executor Duties: A Practical Guide.
The executor is the person tasked with administering your estate in accordance with your will.
Being an executor is a demanding job that requires skill, integrity and judgment. It is not easy, or quick, or just a favour.
Choosing an executor is not about choosing who is nicest or closest to you.
At the best of times being an executor requires a lot of paperwork and handling forms and money. The executor needs to collect assets (eg. clean out your house and arrange to have it sold), invest funds prudently, hire and instruct professionals like lawyers and accountants, open and close bank accounts, and complete and file probate forms and tax returns. The executor needs to send and receive considerable correspondence, get advice, make decisions, and keep detailed accounting records throughout. The executor needs to be detail-oriented, prudent, but decisive, and able to carry on the task for months and perhaps several years. Make sure that you choose someone who has the right skills and aptitude.
It is not a requirement that your executor be resident in Ontario, but it makes life easier. In particular, as a general rule, appointing an executor who does not live in Canada or Britain can make the probate process more difficult and expensive. It is even possible that the Court may refuse your chosen executor, and instead appoint someone in accordance with the default provisions of the Succession Law Reform Act. If you have assets in more than one jurisdiction you should consider multiple wills (see Multiple Wills).
Being an executor is a demanding job. Executors are commonly compensated (in rough terms 5% of the value of the estate).
It is very important not to choose an executor who will automatically be in a conflict of interest. This is guaranteed to create distrust and often creates acrimony and disputes. These disputes can destroy families!
For instance, if one of your children lives with you, and the others do not, generally it is a bad idea to choose the live-in child as the sole executor of your estate because they will have a large conflict of interest related to dealing with the house.
Wills can last a long time. Someone who was a perfectly suitable executor at one time, may no longer be able or willing to act many years later. You should name at least one alternate executor.
Unless you have a relative or friend who happens to enjoy filing legal forms and doing taxes and accounting, we strongly recommend that you consider appointing an independent professional who is not a beneficiary of the estate to be the executor. Often, this will get the job done ‘better, faster’ and without the risk of poisoning family relationships. In addition, many professionals, especially trust companies, will have made arrangements to have someone ready, willing and able to fill the role when the time comes.