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Chosen to be an Executor? That Doesn't Sound Tough, Right?

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

Being asked by a friend or family member to be an executor of an estate is an honour, but with the honour comes a great deal of responsibility. Being an Executor requires a variety of types of knowledge and skills. Moreover, the Executor role is usually being carried out by an individual who is also dealing with grief and loss, so the role can seem overwhelming.

Read more to find out about what an executor means, and what you should consider prior to accepting the role.

There are several key factors that should be included in the selection of and the decision to accept the role of Executor.

  • Understanding of the magnitude of the job

  • Adequate time to finalize the estate – in Canada today it normally takes 12 – 18 months to finalize an estate. The timeframe depends on how well prepared the Executor is, the complexity of the estate, the Executor’s ability to commit the time required is an important consideration. While it is typically not a full-time job, it usually requires 200 – 300 hours to complete.

  • the necessary estate information: This is important to be able to take control of the estate.

  • the knowledge, skills and abilities needed, and

  • the emotional strength to do the job.

The responsibility of the Executor includes:

  • Taking control of the Estate and make a list of the property: this means knowing exactly what the estate is comprised of. While you might have a general idea about major assets, it might be more difficult obtaining information on smaller assets.

  • Obtaining the original copies of the will

  • Arranging the funeral or memorial

  • Applying to the Court for letters of probate or administration

  • Administering the Estate and paying outstanding debts

  • Distributing the property to beneficiaries as set out in the will.

The hard truth is an executor’s role is required when someone dies. Loved ones and beneficiaries react to that loss in a variety of ways. The emotion and differing reactions of everyone affected can place the Executor in difficult situations as everyone moves into the various stages of grief. The Executor must communicate information that may be troubling for others, organize and manage multiple activities, make decisions, and deal with any, and all, situations that arise.

The demands of the Executor’s role are frequently in conflict with personal needs, especially in the first days, and often for many weeks after the death of their loved one.

The stress and anxiety associated with an individual’s death can be significantly reduced when the Estate Planner and Executor have taken the time, working and planning together, to ensure the Executor is well prepared for the role.

Anne Howard and Stevie Colvin own Exit Savvy, which provides estate planning and estate administration processes. They draw on personal experiences with the role to help put their clients' minds at ease.


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