The advantages of serving as an executor should be balanced against the potential disadvantages of the role.
Accepting the role of executor means you have agreed to take on the responsibility of ‘executing’ the wishes of the deceased. It may feel like a great honour to be asked, but later, you might be scratching your head wondering, What was I thinking?
Before you accept the invitation, it’s sensible to understand what’s involved in the job. If you choose to accept the position with your eyes open, you will be a much more effective executor.
Two Parts to the Job of Executor
Part 1 – Administration of Black and White Paperwork – Prepare yourself for clerical work that is repetitive, complicated, and often frustrating. Because it’s a legal process, the job requires time, organization, attention to detail, fiscal accountability, and if you mess up, the risk of litigation.
Part 2 – Administration of Very High and Colourful Emotions – The paperwork is a pushover compared to the second, often overlooked aspect of the work. As the gatekeeper, it is likely that you will be drawn into family disputes fueled by competition, jealousy, impatience, and lack of trust. The executor must know how to stay detached, provide ongoing communication and accountability, be a mediator, a grief counsellor, and be professional in your handling of all emotional reactions, including your own.
Many of us have said, ‘Don’t make a fuss when I die.’ Well, guess what? Death is a fuss for almost every family. When money or possessions are involved, death has the potential for bringing out the very best, and the very worst of people. It’s hard to believe that our own children would split apart into separate camps of resentment over the division of one hundred dollars, but it happens all the time. Money after a death represents much more than the dollar value, and resentment can last a lifetime.
Whenever division of assets is involved, potential inheritors get impatient, frustrated, jealous, and anxious because they have no control over the process. When they feel out of control, they blame the executor, the government, other family members, the bank, or sometimes the poor dead person who wrote the will in the first place. As you can see, being an executor is not for the sentimental or faint of heart.
If you haven’t been scared off, let’s look at some of the benefits of being an executor.
- Vote of Confidence – Executors are generally chosen for their capabilities and trustworthiness. If you have been chosen to close out the affairs of a deceased person, you have been given a vote of confidence. In their eyes, you are the person they trust to manage and ensure their personal legacy. This is no small honour.
- Control – Serving as an executor allows you to personally oversee every aspect of resolving the decedent’s estate. You will have complete control of the estate, subject only to the deceased’s will and legal process.
- Compensation – In every province, legal provision has been made for compensation to executors for the time they invest in closing out the deceased’s estate. The amount or percentage of compensation is generally based on the size and complexity of the estate. Other factors may also be considered in compensation, such as, the care and responsibility involved, the skill and ability necessary to do the job, and the success achieved in the final results.
‘To renounce’ seems like a harsh move, but any potential executor has the right to change their mind, before or after the death occurs. Life circumstances change for everyone. Sickness, lack of time, changes in deceased’s family dynamics, and fear of making mistakes under stress are just some of the reasons potential executors decline the responsibility.
If you decide to renounce, which is your legal right, alert the court promptly. The court will either tap an alternate executor named in the will, or appoint an appropriate person to the position.