Choosing an executor is like hiring an employee. You have to consider the candidate's qualifications, experience, and if they're the right fit. In this blog, I review some factors to think about when selecting the right person for the job.
One and done?
How many executors should you choose? You know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen.
Choosing an alternate executor is often a good idea, since this means selecting someone who can take on the role if your first choice is unwilling or unable. A lot can happen between when you write your will and when it's time to handle your estate.
But having an alternate is distinct from choosing co-executors, i.e. selecting multiple people to be executors of your estate at the same time. Some people fall into the trap of appointing their children as co-executors because they don't want to leave anyone out. But this can actually make things more complicated.
Co-executors don't get to divide up the responsibilities between them. They both have total control but must act together. In other words, co-executors are running a three-legged race, not a relay.
Ideally your executor is someone who is reasonable, honest, and able to make decisions that are best for the estate. Consider your estate. Is it modest or large? Are there complicated assets? Is there a difficult family dynamic?
Pick an executor who you think can best handle these circumstances (at what is often an emotional time for the family) and remain objective and committed.
This person should be responsible and organized. Executors deal with banks, lawyers, creditors, and funeral homes, among others. So, choose your executor wisely because the wrong choice could result in conflict, expense, and delays.
Leaving it to the professionals
While common, choosing a family member to be your executor isn’t always the best choice.
Every estate is unique. If you own a large business or have assets in multiple jurisdictions, for example, then appointing a professional executor could be the right choice.
Paying for professional trustee services can save a lot of money in the long run, versus appointing a family member who is in over their head. It all depends on the circumstances -- your finances, family, and beneficiaries.
This is a great topic to bring up with your lawyer when preparing your will.
Location location location
To make the estate administration process go as smoothly as possible, consider the following when choosing your executor:
- Are they organized?
- Are they in the geographical area?
- Are they ready for this kind of responsibility?
- Do you trust them to make the best decisions on your behalf, putting the estate's interests above their own?
The estate administration process can span months or sometimes even years. If your executor lives in the jurisdiction, it’s convenient for all involved instead of having them fly in and out of the province (or worse, the country).
Revisit your decision
Lastly, it's a good idea to revisist your will every couple of years. Circumstances change and so can your preferred executor. If you decide to make a change, then you'll need to update your will.
Make sure that your executor can find your will by registering it on the Canada Will Registry.