by Sean Cooper.


One of the toughest estate planning decisions is who to choose as your executor. Choosing an executor isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. Your executor has a lot of important decisions to make on your behalf when you’re no longer around.

Many people simply choose their son or daughter as their executor. While they may be the best choice at the time, life is constantly changing. Your son or daughter may live in Canada now, but may decide to live abroad later on in life. Likewise, your estate may be simple now, but what if you start your own business? Your estate may be so complex later on that you’re better off choosing a third party, such as a trust company as your executor.

Choosing an executor may seem intimating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some important things to consider when selecting an executor.

Choose someone who is ok with the responsibilities

With great power comes great responsibility. There’s a lot of work involved in being an executor. You have to be patient, organized and levelheaded at an especially stressful time when a loved one has passed away.

Before choosing someone as your executor, sit down and talk with them, so they know what is to be expected of them. Broadly speaking, the primary role of the executor is to distribute the assets that pass under your will and arrange for the payment of your debts and expenses related to the estate. This can entail arranging your funeral, applying for probate and appraising your assets, to name a few tasks. This represents just some of the roles and responsibilities of the executor. Go over every single task to make sure your first choice of executor is ok with performing them to the best of their ability.

Choose someone who will be available

Further to the above points, choose someone who will be available. If the person you’re thinking about choosing as an executor lives out of town or lives a very busy life, you might be better choosing someone else. Likewise, if the executor you’re thinking of choosing likes to travel a lot or enjoys living “off the grid,” think long and hard before choosing them. Speak with them first because they need to be available and reside in Canada to handle the many duties of being an executor whenever you pass away.

Choose someone you trust

An executor’s job is to follow your plan as it is. They wouldn’t be allowed (legally) to change anything or sway something in a different direction. That being said, you want to choose someone you trust who would be up to the task. Don’t simply pick someone because of family politics. Your executor could be a direct family member (brother, sister, son or daughter) or it could be a relative or close personal friend.

If your estate is more complex, you might consider hiring a third party, such as a trust company to be your executor. This could help avoid fighting between your family members and ensure your estate is distributed properly according to your wishes.

Choose someone who is likely to be alive

They say with age comes wisdom. While it doesn’t hurt to ask your parents or grandparents for advice on choosing an executor, you probably don’t want to choose them. You want your executor to be alive when you’re no longer around. If you choose someone much older or in poor health and they pass on while you’re still alive and you forget to or don’t get around to choosing a new executor, it can cause a real headache for your family later on when you do eventually pass away.

Review your executor regularly

Similar to your will, your choice of executor isn’t written in stone. Regularly review it once a year or whenever there’s a major life change, such as the birth of a child, moving to a new house or a divorce. Who you initially chose as your executor may have been a good choice back then, but they no longer be now. Further to the next point, be prepared with a backup in case you decide to change executors later on.

Choose a backup executor

Choose a backup executor. Your first choice may turn you down or something may happen to them where they’re unable to perform their duties as an executor. For that reason, it’s important to be prepared with a Plan B.

Choosing a backup executor means just that, choosing a second person as your executor if your first choice turns you down. What is doesn’t mean is choosing two executors at the same time. People can choose two executors to manage their estate, but it can complicate matters, cause a lot of headaches and be difficult to manage. Both executors would have to be available and share the responsibilities. For that reason, you’re probably better off choosing just one executor.