Tips for Executors

You Were Named an Executor – Now What?

September 2015

Unfortunately I recently had a family member pass away. It is never easy to lose a loved one. While grieving I also witnessed my family members, specifically the three that were named executors, attempt to settle the estate. In my case the three executors did not live in the same province, there was some family tension and one executor eventually had to renounce their duties. The family drama has subsided, but witnessing the event did highlight the difficulties of being an executor.

I also heard statistics from a BMO Leger Poll, it seems the difficulties my family experienced are not abnormal. The poll surveyed folks that served as executors and 47% reported administrative complications and 26% reported legal issues. Being an executor can be tough. The duties can include: planning the funeral, collecting the deceased assets, probating the will, pursuing life insurance benefits, freezing accounts, securing assets, paying the deceased debts, filing tax returns, distributing the assets to beneficiaries, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Being an executor is a time consuming role, often to completely settle an estate can take 12 – 18 months, if it is a complex estate or if there is family drama it can take longer. A client of mine described the role of an executor as a part time job that you have to work while grieving.

The role is also an honour. Being named an executor implies your loved one regarded you as trustworthy and capable of carrying out this important task. What follows are a few tips that can help you in the role of executor. If you are in the process of appointing an executor for your estate the tips can also guide your decision.

The More You Know Now the Better

Be prepared. The more information you collect now the easier it will be later. Are their multiple executors? Where is the will kept? Is there a safety deposit box? At which financial institutions do they hold accounts? Is there a list of assets? Conversations about the passing of a loved one are not easy. However, I believe answering questions like these is prudent and estate planning requires open communication.

Keep Records

There can be a lot of paperwork when settling an estate. Additionally money will be changing hands as debts are paid, taxes are filed and beneficiaries receive their inheritance. Mishaps can have financial consequences and executors can be held liable. Gathering and maintaining full and detailed records is important.


It is a good idea to have the deceased’s mail redirected to your address. Having all of their mail directed to you can be a time saver and can help you determine which people and institutions need to be notified of the death.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help

To properly settle an estate you will likely need the help of numerous professionals: lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, funeral directors, insurance agents, bankers and the list goes on. These professionals can provide guidance and ease the burden of being an executor.

Being an executor is an important task. Whether you have been asked to be an executor or are deciding who to name as your executor, open communication and proper planning go a long way.

Clinton Orr B.Comm (hons.), CIM, CFP, DMS, FMA  lives in Beausejour and is a portfolio manager with National Bank Financial.


This information transmitted is intended to provide general guidance on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader who accepts full responsibility for its use, and is not to be considered a definitive analysis of the law and factual situation of any particular individual or entity.  As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a professional accounting, tax, legal or other professional advisor. This commentary reflects my opinions alone, and may not reflect the views of National Bank Financial Group.