Duties of an Executor

At some point in our lives most of us will be asked to act as an Executor or co-Executor of the Estate of a loved one. This is generally considered an honour and, to some extent, an homage to the friend or family member in question. But what does an Executor actually do? The duties of an Executor are widespread and varied. They include:

  • Make arrangements for memorial service and funeral;
  • Secure the deceased's online accounts and social media sites;
  • Investigate and make an inventory of the estate's assets and liabilities;
  • Advertise for creditors and claimants;
  • Communicate regularly with specific beneficiaries and residuary beneficiaries;
  • Give notice to the Public Trustee if the deceased had minor children or dependent children over the age of 18;
  • Prepare documentation and apply for a Grant of Probate;
  • Deal with banks and financial institutions where the deceased held accounts or investments;
  • Open a bank account in the name of the Estate;
  • File income tax returns and ensure payment of taxes;
  • Obtain a Clearance Certificate from Canada Revenue Agency;
  • Repair, conduct maintenance, prepare real property for showing and sale;
  • Manage or sell real properties;
  • Manage or sell existing businesses;
  • Ensure appropriate risk tolerance of existing investment accounts and of any new funds brought into the Estate;
  • Hire appropriate professionals, e.g., lawyer, accountant, realtor, property appraiser, investment advisor, to perform tasks that require specialized knowledge and skill;
  • Facilitate pay-out of insurance policies;
  • Facilitate transfer of assets that fall outside of the estate (e.g., real property held in joint tenancy, RRSPs, pension benefits;
  • Deal with utility companies;
  • Maintain insurance on real properties and vehicles;
  • Transfer shareholdings;
  • Generate an accounting of receipts and disbursements for residuary beneficiaries;
  • Pay out specific beneficiaries;
  • Transfer real property;
  • Make an interim distribution to residuary beneficiaries, if appropriate;
  • Obtain releases from beneficiaries;
  • Generate an informal accounting of receipts and disbursements for beneficiaries;
  • Generate and file, if necessary, a formal accounting for review by the Surrogate Court;
  • Prosecute, defend or settle any law suits in which the deceased or their estate is involved or has a potential claim;
  • Deal with claims for maintenance and support from a dependent person (spouse or dependent child);
  • Set up and administer any testamentary trusts created in the deceased's will;
  • Determine the Executor's fee;
  • Make any final disbursements to the residuary beneficiaries; and
  • Close the estate.

As can be seen, even administration of a relatively simple estate can be time consuming. The significant time commitment and assumption of risk by the Executor fully justifies any fee for performing their duties. The Surrogate Court Tariff suggests an Executor's fee of 3% - 5% of the net value of the Estate. This amount can be reduced or increased depending on the complexity of the Estate. The residuary beneficiaries must agree to the amount of the Executor's fee. If agreement cannot be reached, the Executor can apply to the Surrogate court for determination of the appropriate amount of the fee.

A Calgary estate lawyer can assist with the complexity of applying for a Grant of Probate and Estate Administration