The decision to select an executor for your will should not be taken lightly, as your executor will have to carry out many duties to administer your estate and work with your beneficiaries. Your executor may also be one of your beneficiaries. Selecting your executor gives you control over who manages your estate, rather than leaving that decision out of your hands. Ideally, your executor should not be much older than you (younger is best!) and should be reasonably healthy.
In many instances, but not all, one of those executor’s duties is probating the will, which is the formal process of the Court approving your will. The role also entails making funeral arrangements and ensuring that the estate expenses, including funeral costs are paid. For example, your executor will be tasked with ensuring your debts and any liabilities such as tax arrears are paid. Ultimately, after all the estate duties and liabilities are taken care of, your executor will see to it that your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries per the instructions set out in your will.
When deciding who you should appoint as your executor, you should consider a few things:
A trusted family member or friend
Do you have a close relative or friend who is honest, objective, and willing to carry out the aforementioned duties? You may consider appointing a trusted friend or family member as executor if you’re confident that he or she can remain fair, honest and diplomatic throughout the process. Spouses and children remain popular choices for executors as they know your situation best and maybe your most trusted individuals.
A professional executor
If you’re unable to identify a family member or friend who can act as an executor, then a professional executor can fill that role. This is especially if you foresee familial issues or if your estate is complex. A professional executor is an independent 3rd party with the necessary skill and experience to administer estates impartially, which can be important particularly if there is tension between your spouse and your children from a previous relationship or if you have an estate that you feel may be better handled by a professional executor. Keep in mind that professional executors may not be necessary in most cases, that they may not be as familiar with your personal situation, and that they do charge professional fees which will reduce the amount leftover for distribution to your beneficiaries. Research your professional executors carefully before you appoint one.
Having more than one executor
In some cases, you may wish to choose two people for the role to ensure some degree of oversight. There are some benefits but also drawbacks with having multiple executors, including the potential for disagreement and conflicts, so it’s best you speak with a wills and estates lawyer to advise you if this may be a good idea or not. Having a backup executor, however, is almost always a good idea.
Let’s say you’ve built a life for yourself in BC. It would be ideal for you to appoint an executor who lives in the same region as yourself. Administering the estate may require your executor to make frequent visits to properties, the lawyer’s office and also meeting with beneficiaries, which can be more expensive and time-consuming for the executor if he or she lives far away.
Someone who is financially literate
Your executor should have a general understanding of financial matters. He or she should also be able to identify and consult with the appropriate specialists for matters that require their expertise. For example, your executor may be required to prepare an accounting of your estates distribution (with the assistance of a probate lawyer) that outlines how your estate assets have been paid out, so a basic level of financial literacy would be helpful.
Wills and estates lawyer in Richmond
Life is filled with uncertainties, but it’s reassuring to know that with a proper estate plan, you can have control over some things, even after you’re gone.
This list of considerations is non-exhaustive, and each person’s estate is different. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice, but general information only. We recommend that you seek independent legal advice from an experienced wills and estates lawyer to help you craft an estate plan that’s suitable for your situation. A simple will-kit that you download, purchase online or in a store may save you money in the short-term, but may not be appropriate for your situation, and can lead to costly errors or headaches that an experienced wills and estates lawyer could have corrected in the beginning.
If you need help with estate matters such as writing a will or advice relating to your estate plans including selecting an executor, contact us at Bernard Lau and Co. Law Corporation. Let our Richmond wills and estates lawyer help you get your affairs in order.