Executor’s Duties

By Vanessa DeDominicis

What happens if you are appointed Executor?

If you have been appointed Executor in a Will there are a wide range of obligations and responsibilities that you must fulfill. However, if you do not wish to act as the Executor, you may decline to do so by renouncing your Executorship and signing the appropriate documents so that the Alternate Executor may act or so that some other person may apply for Letters of Administration.

What do Executor duties include?

  1. Locating the Will and reviewing it with the estate lawyer. Ensure that it is the deceased’s last will.
  2. Attending to the funeral and other family matters.
  3. Determining if survivors urgently require immediate funds for living expenses. Financial institutions will sometimes release funds from the deceased’s account if urgently required by the survivors.
  4. Reviewing important papers of the deceased. Attending the bank to obtain a listing of the safety deposit box contents and the securities in safekeeping.
  5. Reviewing insurance policies to ensure adequate coverage is in place.
  6. Compiling a list of assets, values and debts.
  7. Reviewing outstanding debts (i.e.: mortgages, loans, agreements) to determine ongoing payment requirements.
  8. Obtaining serial number and registration particulars for all vehicles.
  9. Obtaining names and addresses of all beneficiaries, children and next of kin.
  10. Redirecting mail.
  11. Canceling credit cards and subscriptions.
  12. Returning pension cheques and government benefit cards. Applying for death benefits.
  13. Notifying financial institutions, life insurance agents and completing claims.
  14. Obtaining Death Certificates to enable transfer of joint tenancy properties and to claim insurance benefits.
  15. Obtaining Letters Probate to provide authority to distribute the estate according to the Will.
  16. The lawyer will do the Wills Search, prepare the required Affidavits and documents and make application to the Court for a grant of Letters Probate. Notices will be sent with a copy of the Will to the beneficiaries and next of kin.
  17. Upon receiving Letters Probate, gathering all funds of the estate and disposing of real estate and securities as stipulated in the Will.
  18. Advertising for creditors and reviewing creditor’s claims.
  19. Collecting any outstanding amounts due to the deceased and paying estate debts.
  20. Attending to income tax returns and the tax clearance certificate. This certificate confirms that all income taxes or fees of the estate are paid. This is an important step because the tax department can potentially impose taxes that you don’t know about.
  21. Preparing an accounting of monies received and paid out with the proposed final distribution. Distributing it to all beneficiaries for execution with a release of any claims against you as the Executor.
  22. Distributing the funds to the beneficiaries.

What is the Wills Variation Act?

Pursuant to the terms of the Wills Variation Act, a spouse or child of the deceased may make an application to vary the Will if they have not been properly provided for under the Will. Such an application must be made within six months of the date Letters Probate are granted. You are therefore restricted from distributing the estate until the six month limitation period has expired.

What fees can be charged?

The Executor is entitled to charge fees up to 5% of the gross value of the estate plus reimbursement for all out of pocket expenses. Fees must be approved by the beneficiaries or in the absence of that, the Court.

If the estate is small, it may be possible to distribute the assets without obtaining Letters Probate. The advice of a lawyer should always be sought to determine the correct course of action.