How to choose an executor for settling your estate

Administering an estate can be an enormous amount of work.  For this reason, it is essential that you think carefully before you choose an executor (known as a “liquidator” in Quebec, and an “estate trustee” in Ontario).

Your executor – or executors – will be responsible for dealing with all your legal and financial affairs, and for ensuring that the provisions of your will are carried out.  Because of the time commitment this entails – not to mention the financial and administrative duties involved –
your executor(s) should ideally be someone:

  • you trust completely – such as a spouse, adult child, or close friend
  • who gets along with your other executors (if applicable), and who will deal fairly with all members of your family
  • who is of an appropriate age, such that he or she will be capable of serving as your executor when needed
  • who lives in the same province as you, preferably nearby (if possible)
  • who has the know-how, willingness, and time to be your executor
  • who will give you permission to name him or her as an executor in your will.

Because of all these considerations, many people – especially those with complex estates or blended family situations – choose to appoint a professional executor (such as a trust company) rather than a friend or relative.  This is usually a prudent decision.  It is also possible to have a relative or close friend serve as a second executor.

Of course, executors – whether individual or professional – are entitled to compensation for the significant amount of time and work involved in administering an estate.  Your will can therefore include directions as to how your executor(s) should be compensated.  (Your legal advisor should be able to provide guidance on any provincial standards or maximums).