Being an executor – An honour or a burden?

February 2014


Many of us have received a request from a friend or family member to act as the executor of their estate. Acting as an executor can be a daunting task that takes time, knowledge and patience. When acting as an executor, you owe a duty of care to all persons interested in the estate, so the role should not be taken lightly. Before you accept the role of executor, consider the following:

  1. Availability – As an executor, you face sudden and intense demands on your time, especially at the beginning of the settlement of the estate.
  2. Complexity – Generally, the larger an estate, the more complex tasks you will have to complete as the executor. This could include dealing with foreign investments or property, business succession, and family law issues.
  3. Competency – To act as an executor, you should have familiarity with basic financial concepts and some technical knowledge of business, law, tax and accounting is helpful.
  4. Relationships – Handling an estate is not just about getting the job done. Emotions are high as heirs deal with their grief and the executor must be able to deal with difficult issues in a way that preserves harmony among all concerned.

    When considering who you should name as the executor to your own estate, be sure to choose someone with the competency, objectivity and emotional intelligence to fill the role well. 

    You can also make their lives easier in fulfilling the executor role by considering the following:

    • Approach the person in advance of finalizing your Will to ensure they are willing to take on this important role on your death.
    • Identify professional advisors who are familiar with your affairs such as accountants, lawyers, and investment advisors.
    • Make sure that your Will is up to date and valid in your province of residence.
    • Document your personal property, assets and liabilities and tell your executor where to find this information (e.g. safety deposit box)
    • Ensure that your Will allows the executor to receive reasonable compensation for their work on your estate.


    The role of executor can be challenging but with some careful thought and proper estate planning in advance, you can ensure that the estate will be settled smoothly. If you’d like a checklist for acting as an executor, contact your advisor for a complimentary copy of our education article on the topic.
    Looking for an easy solution for keeping all your financial and estate information in one place? Contact your advisor for a copy of our Estate Record Keeper.

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