What is an Executor?
An executor is a person appointed by the deceased through their last will and testament to manage and distribute their estate according to their wishes. Executors are entrusted with a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. This role requires a significant amount of time, attention, and expertise to fulfill the numerous duties involved.
Duties of an Executor in Ontario
- Locate and interpret the will: The first duty of the executor is to locate the original will and review its contents to understand the deceased’s wishes. They must also ensure that the will is the most recent version and confirm its validity.
- Apply for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee: The executor must apply to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (formerly known as “probate”). This document confirms the executor’s authority to manage and distribute the estate.
- Notify beneficiaries and creditors: The executor must inform all beneficiaries named in the will and any potential creditors of the deceased’s passing. They must also publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper to allow potential claimants to come forward.
- Inventory and secure assets: Executors are responsible for identifying, locating, and securing all assets of the estate. This includes real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and any other assets owned by the deceased.
- Obtain necessary valuations: Executors must determine the fair market value of the estate’s assets at the time of death. This may require hiring professional appraisers for real estate, personal property, or business interests.
- Pay outstanding debts and taxes: Executors are responsible for paying the deceased’s debts and outstanding taxes, including filing the final income tax return and obtaining a clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
- Distribute the estate: Once all debts, taxes, and expenses have been paid, the executor is responsible for distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
- Maintain accurate records: Throughout the estate administration process, the executor must maintain detailed and accurate records, including all financial transactions, communications, and decisions. These records may be requested by the court, the beneficiaries, or the CRA.
- Close the estate: Finally, the executor must provide a final accounting of the estate’s administration to the beneficiaries and request their approval. If there are no disputes or objections, the executor can formally close the estate.
The role of an executor is a complex and time-consuming responsibility that requires a high level of organization, attention to detail, and diligence. It is essential for an executor to understand their duties, seek professional assistance when necessary, and communicate effectively with the beneficiaries to ensure a smooth estate administration process. By fulfilling these duties, the executor can honour the deceased’s wishes and provide a sense of closure for the grieving family members.