Barbara Bell C.A.
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Articles: Nov. 08 | Feb. 08

November 2008 Article

The Executor of your Estate – who, when, and why …

Article by Barbara Bell

What would you like us to do with the body, madam?” the nursing aid asked quietly. “Oh! I don’t know – what do you suggest?” My mother was gone. It was 2:00 in the morning. I was alone and in shock, but I needed to decide where to send her body! As her executor I quickly learned that this decision was the first of many I would be required to make.

Being an executor of someone’s estate is a significant responsibility. As well as taking care of the funeral arrangements, the job includes:

  • Identifying, collecting, protecting, managing and realizing all assets of the estate;
  • Settling the deceased’s affairs, including paying all liabilities, filing income and estate tax returns and paying any income taxes due; and
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries entitled under the will.

This is a responsibility that most of us don’t think about until we have the position.
Learn more about your role as executor here.


If you want your final wishes to be followed with undue stress on your family and beneficiaries, I recommend you consider some of these aspects when choosing an executor:

  • someone you trust with your financial affairs (have had some experience with this person and you believe them to be honest);
  • someone who has an understanding of your wishes (you have discussed your bequests with them);
  • someone who works well with people and under stress (good people skills, but can remain objective);
  • someone who has an appropriate skill set (maybe a lawyer, an accountant, a business person, someone who can handle money easily); and, naturally,
  • someone who is younger and/or healthier than you (expect they will outlive you and be coherent when you die).

Note that beneficiaries can also be executors. If you choose a family member, consider telling all of the intimate family and giving your reasons for your choice. Executors can be changed at any time during your life, however ensure that any changes form part of your last will.


Upon death, the executor, identified in the will, becomes responsible for, and the custodian of, all the estate assets. There may have been a power of attorney in place for the deceased, but this ceases immediately at moment of death. The executor continues to be responsible until he/she obtains a clearance certificate from Canada Revenue Agency and distributes the estate to the beneficiaries.


If you do not have a will, name an executor, or your executor(s) is unwilling or unable to act in this capacity the court will appoint an official administrator. In this situation there is a list of people who have a right to administer the estate. In priority the first person is a “qualified” spouse, then the children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and finally next of kin other than the above. If there are no next of kin willing and able to handle this responsibility, the Public Guardian and Trustee will be appointed. This appointment is not necessarily a bad thing but it generally complicates things and is it what you want?

Choosing an Executor for your estate is an important decision. I recommend you think seriously about who would be best to make the final distribution of one of the representations of what your life was about.

DISCLAIMER: This newsletter article is for information and educational purposes only. The information contained in this report has been compiled from sources I believe to be reliable.



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