From time to time clients ask me if I would be willing to act as the executor of their estate, but when they do so, I politely point out that as their financial advisor it would be a serious conflict of interest, so I have to decline. An executor’s responsibility can be enormous, so I thought I would list some of an executor’s duties, just in case a family member or friend asks you to be their executor.
Arrange for the disposition of the deceased’s remains, as well as arrangements for funeral, memorial service, etc.
Find out the names and addresses of the beneficiaries and notify them of their interests in the estate.
List the contents of any safety deposit box owned by the deceased.
Inventory all of the assets and debts of the deceased and value them as of the date of death.
Check that property is insured. Advise the insurance company of the death. Place additional insurance if necessary.
Smaller valuable estate property should be inventoried then stored securely to prevent theft or damage.
Arrange for protection and supervision of vacant land and buildings.
Make arrangements for the proper management of estate assets. If there is a business or farm, make sure there is someone running it properly. Sell assets if appropriate.
Apply for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration.
Hire a lawyer to advise you on any complicated or unclear issues.
Apply for all pensions, death benefits, life insurance or any other benefits that are payable to the deceased’s estate.
If there is any jointly owned property, advise the other joint tenant of the deceased’s death (notice that this list does not include you taking care of the transfer of title. The surviving joint tenant can do that).
If there are any life insurance policies, RRSPs or any other assets that name a beneficiary other than the estate, notify that beneficiary of the deceased’s death.
Pay all of the debts and expenses owed by the deceased and by the estate.
Decide whether or not to advertise for creditors and claimants. If you choose to advertise, do so in accordance with the law. If there are claims, check them out for legitimacy. Pay legitimate claims from the estate.
Determine how much tax the deceased owes. Have tax returns prepared and filed on time. Pay the taxes before paying beneficiaries. Get a Canada Revenue Agency tax clearance certificate.
If there is a lawsuit against the estate, hire a lawyer and run the lawsuit on behalf of the estate.
Set up any trusts directed by the Will. Administer the trusts for the length of time and on the conditions set out in the Will.
Answer enquiries from residuary beneficiaries, creditors and other stakeholders.
Prepare executor’s financial statements including a proposed compensation schedule and a proposed final distribution schedule.
Distribute the deceased’s property in accordance with the Will.
So now hopefully you have a better understanding of the role of an executor, and can decide if you want to act as one or not!
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