Wills and Estates... What to do if you are an Executor

Mary Jane McGinty – February 2016

So you have lost someone who named you as their Executor in their Will.  Not an everyday occurrence and not an ideal time to be dealing with the unknown.  What should you expect?

First things first.  Does the Will explain what the deceased wanted done immediately after the death?  Is it a celebration, a religious ceremony, a cremation or a burial?  The Executor will make sure the immediate arrangements are suitable.  They may be expensive, so access to the Estate assets may be a big priority.  A lawyer can help you determine who needs to be notified immediately and where the money to cover the funeral can be accessed quickly.  Funeral parlours and cremations services can also be very helpful in these initial stages, even placing the obituary and notifying government agencies.

After the immediate concerns are addressed, the role of the Executor is to gather the assets of the Estate and to distribute them according to the Will.  This task can range from nothing at all to a time consuming complicated process.  For the uninitiated, it would probably be difficult to even locate the task at hand on the spectrum of difficulty and complexity.

Step one is to identify the assets of the Estate and the manner in which title to the assets is held.  At this point, the Estate lawyer, or proctor, can explain to you what has to be done and how it can be done and assist you in navigating the course.  It may involve banks, investment companies, creditors, accountants and the Probate Court.  It may seem daunting, but it a long established process and you can count on a lawyer and accountant to lead you through to completion.

Being an Executor is a huge responsibility and going it alone is probably not a good plan.  Speak to the deceased’s accountant and lawyer.  If he/she did not have a lawyer or accountant, speak to your own.  The lawyer’s role is to advise and protect the Executor by ensuring the terms of the Will are understood and followed.  The Estate is all wrapped up in one final order from the Probate Court, releasing the Executor for any further responsibility to Revenue Canada, the creditors and the beneficiaries.  Please contact MDW Law to let us know if we can help.

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