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What are the responsibilities of the executor?

The following are some of the general responsibilties of the executor in taking charge of the assets of the deceased, paying the debts, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. This list is not intended to be complete but does indicate the type of issues. Your lawyer will provide you with a complete list.

  • Ensure that all the real and personal property is protected, including arranging if necessary fire insurance on buildings, and changing locks to protect assets

  • Locate safely deposit boxes and attempt to locate the key.

  • Selecting the lawyer to act for the estate and obtaining from them notarial copies of the death certiciate. Choose a lawyer who has extensive experience in Wills and Estates work. Pick an accountant to assist you if your lawyer suggests this is appropriate. Discuss the lawyers and accountants fees and disbursements right up front.

  • Locate all life insurance policies and notify the insurance company of the death and forward a copy of the death certificate to have the policy paid to the beneficiary.

  • Notify all insurance companies including house insurance and car insurance of the death. Ensure that insurance is maintained make a list of all the assets and including stocks, bonds, pension funds, bank accounts, government investments, superannuation payments, holiday pay from work, work related life insurance or benefits for the spouse etc.

  • Are there any interests in partnerships or companies and locate shareholders and partnership agreements and provide a copy to the lawyer for his examination. (there may be triggering clauses in those agreements that must be met quickly)

  • In conjunction with discussions with the spouse,

  • Locate the previous several year's income tax returns and provide copies to the lawyer or tax accountant. These must be reviewed quickly to ensure that no filing dates are missed. Government tax authorities do not care that the person is deceased. The executor may be personally liable for any tax penalties that are incurred because filing dates are missed.

  • Pay the account of the funeral director. Your lawyer will tell you the priority of paying debts, but normally the funeral directors account is to be paid before most other debts.

  • Make a list of all debts. This will include accounts for charge cards, house utilities, property tax arrears, income tax arrears, loan payments, outstanding leases, mortgages on house or vehicles, alimony or prior separation agreement. Provide this list and supporting documentation to the lawyer.

  • Once all the assets have been located and the debts paid (including the account of the executor) then the estate will be disbursed in accordance with law and the terms of the Will. In many cases a sale of real estate and personal property may be necessary prior to distribution of the estate. This is where an Estate Settler representative will be invaluable. And since reasonable fees are allowed at no cost to you, the Estate will cover all the costs of Estate Settler.

  • You will need to advertise for creditors in the local newspaper to ensure that all the debts are known and paid.

  • Your lawyer will advise whether any court proceeding is required regarding the Will. This is called filing for Probate. Often if there is adequate tax advice at an earlier date, the requirement for Probate can be avoided. This will save the estate considerable money.

  • You will need to notify the beneficiaries about their bequest and provided there is money left after the payment of all debts, the beneficiaries will receive their money or assets from you as Executor of the estate.

  • You may need to open up a Bank Account in the name of the Estate at your local bank using a notarial copy of the Will (or Probate if required) together with a copy of the death certificate. Use a chequing account that you receive the cheques back so you can verify that you paid the funds if required at a later date.
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