Critical questions for would-be executors

By James Dolan | April 1, 2014 | Last updated on April 1, 2014
2 min read
question marks / Serdarbayraktar

It’s a great sign of respect to be asked to serve as an executor, and you should return that respect to the person asking. But that doesn’t mean saying yes — that means taking the time to find out if you’re the right person for the job. If you’re not, say no.

To find out if you’ll have the time and expertise to perform your duties or whether a corporate trustee would be a better fit, ask the following questions.

What (and where) are the assets?

Distributing estate assets is a core function of any executor. But the difficulty of the job depends largely on what kinds of assets are involved, and where they’re domiciled.

Where will the assets go?

An estate with few heirs (immediate family only, or a single charity) is much easier to administer than one that needs to be distributed to multiple beneficiaries across the country.

What’s the family dynamic?

Family acrimony can make an executor’s work harder. In extreme cases, it can also expose the executor to legal challenges. Better to know about potential discord before signing up.

How do I get paid?

You deserve to be fairly compensated. Clarifying remuneration expectations up front on can help avoid conflict with beneficiaries.

In some provinces, executors are legally entitled to compensation (depends on the size of the estate; the complexity of the assets; risks assumed in managing estate assets; etc.). In Ontario, executor compensation is generally set at 2.5% of estate value. In B.C., it can be up to a maximum of 5%.

This post was updated July 2016.

James Dolan