When preparing an estate plan there are many aspects to consider: Updating your Will, updating your Power of Attorney documents (for both personal care and property), taxes financial planning, charitable giving….the list goes on. A key piece of this planning is also naming an executor who will administer your estate.
In my experience, I find that clients sometimes made this decision based off complete emotion, guilt, or pressure without realizing that this role is a job like any other that we would normally apply for. In the world of job-hunting, one must submit a resume to a company for the career that interests them, if they are qualified the company will then arrange for an interview and see if the candidate is suitable.
This made my imagination light up. The scenario that played in my head is someone interviewing for an executor position:
Person: “Thank you for coming in today and applying for the position of my Executor. Can you tell me what experience you have in administrating estates?”
Potential Executor: “No experience at all”
Person: “Ok, why do you feel you would be a good fit for the position?”
Potential Executor: “Because I am your oldest daughter”
Person: “Excellent, you’re hired”
When considering who should be our executor the natural people we tend to gravitate to are: children, friends, or other family members. While it is important to choose someone that you trust and love, it is also wise to consider other factors to ensure you are choosing the right person for the job. As our team at ETP Canada has worked directly with hundreds of executors, below are three non-traditional things to consider.
- TIME AVAILABILITY:What is going on in your potential executor’s life? Are they driving kids to/from hockey practice each evening? Do they spend four months of the year travelling? Do they have a job that demands long hours? Administrating an estate is a time consuming and lengthy ordeal, the process of applying for a Certificate of Appointment (formally known as probate) can take several months…not to mention collecting all the assets, filing tax returns, distributing bequests and applying for a clearance certificate. This great honor that we bestow to our loved ones is quite the time commitment.
- KNOWLEDGE OF ESTATES:I am not saying that your executor needs to be the “guru” of estates, however does your potential executor have a general understanding of the process? Are they aware of your assets and liabilities? Have you reviewed your Will together? Are they tech savvy, and able to handle your digital assets? There are many steps to take when dealing with an estate and at times the roadmap must be followed in a specific order to ensure successful estate administration. Will the person that you are considering understand that they should not issue any payments to beneficiaries before ensuring that funeral expenses, probate fees, income taxes and other liabilities are paid?
- RIGHT FIT:An executor ends up having their hands in all sorts of matters such as: financial, tax, legal, real estate, investments, etc. Will your potential executor be the best fit to take on your estate? An executor must also be able to push forward to get the information they require, even when it is difficult to gather the data they need. However, this doesn’t mean that your potential executor should be someone who will start a conflict, be scrappy, or ignite a difficult situation. What you are looking for is the “right fit”, sometimes an executor needs to be tough in order to obtain information that is required for something. Other times an executor must only listen when a beneficiary is venting and be sensitive to their concerns. They must master a fine balance of patience, professionalism, and assertiveness all at the same time.
There are many more things to consider when determining the right person that should be your executor, some are technical skills and others are soft skills. If you take the approach as if this was a job opening and spend some time thinking about your estate specifically, then you will find the answer on who should fill that position. The answer or person may even surprise you!
Debbie Stanley is a Senior Estate Administrator at ETP Canada Inc.
27 Cork St West, Guelph ON N1H 2W9