Choosing an Executor

Recently I was preparing a fairly complex Will for a client, and when we were discussing the appointment of her Executor or Estate trustee, she said she wanted to name her three adult children to the position. In actual fact, she only wanted to name her daughter, but felt compelled to add the other two children because she did not want to "hurt their feelings."

Naming an Executor is a key part of drawing up a Will. This is the individual who will be responsible for carrying out the terms of your Will after your death. In Ontario the "Executor" is also known as the "Estate trustee." Here are ten points to consider when deciding who to choose for this very important position.

  • Don't automatically choose your spouse or your children. You may want to set up a trust for your spouse and/or your children and it might be better to have an outside person administer this trust.
  • Choose a reliable person. It should be someone who pays attention to details and gets things done on time.
  • Consider someone who knows your values, your wishes, and your family. Someone who will give you peace of mind.
  • You may want to seek assistance from a professional. Hiring a trust company or other professional Executor should be considered if your affairs are complex or controversial or whose area of expertise would be helpful with respect to your estate. You might also consider having a professional named as a co-executor with a member of your family.
  • Do your Executors live nearby? Although we live in an age where we can communicate instantaneously with someone across the street or on the other side of the world it still might be worthwhile to select someone who lives in the area, who can deal with things as they come up.
  • Try to avoid naming the same individual to be both the guardian of your infant children and your Executor. If your Executor is in control of your trust fund, he or she might find it difficult to meet the demands of a teenager who wants to buy a fancy sports car and at the same time invest your estate funds.
  • Be sure to ask the person who you wish to name whether they will take on the responsibility of being an Executor. You don't want to take the chance of having your Executor renounce his or her appointment.
  • Consider the age of your Executor. Don't pick anyone who will be over 65 by the time your youngest beneficiary gets paid out. If the trust in your Will ends when your youngest child is 30, figure out how old the Executor will be at that time.
  • Just as it is important to review your Will every few years, it is especially important to review the appointment of an Executor. For example, the Executor named may have died, became incapacitated, or moved away.
  • As I said to my client -don't be tempted to name all your children as Executors, just to avoid "hurting their feelings". My client's estate will be a cumbersome operation requiring a great deal of time and experience. I suggested that she talk to all of them and select one or two children who would be good at the job.