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The Hidden Risks of Acting as an Estate Executor

posted May 14, 2012, 12:02 PM by Almohajer Aljadeed
By: Ishwar Jagpal

There is a good chance that at some point, you will be asked to be an executor to someone’s estate – if you haven’t been asked already. The request may come from a spouse, a parent or a close friend, and you may be well inclined to accept. But do you know what the job entails?

The truth is, settling an estate can be a very complicated and time-consuming process. It can mean a deluge of responsibilities that could take years to carry out: managing investments, selling real estate, dealing with upset beneficiaries, even making funeral arrangements. And you may be trying to accomplish all of this while you yourself are mourning the loss of your loved one. What’s more, executors are personally liable, so it will be your responsibility to see to it that everything gets done properly.

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey conducted on behalf of RBC Estate and Trust Services, less than half (47%) of Canadians said they were familiar with what’s involved in being an executor of a Will. In fact, more than one quarter (27%) said they have no idea how long it will take.

If you’re considering, or have accepted, a request to be an executor for someone’s estate, there are some important considerations to bear in mind.

Executor duties are numerous
Whether it’s collecting life insurance, applying for death benefits, filing a tax return or making a probate application, the range and complexity of executor responsibilities can be daunting. In fact, depending on the size of the estate, there can be upward of 70 individual tasks expected of an executor, some of which can carry a liability risk.

Estates can take a very long time to settle
The survey also found that 37% of respondents believe the process will take less than six months and 54% estimate less than a year. But depending on the size and complexity of the estate, it can take anywhere from an average of 18 months, to up to four years.

You may be working through your own grief and sorrow
Dealing with the death of a loved one is often very difficult, and the added demands of settling that person’s estate can make the situation far more trying. Be sure to ask yourself how well you think you will be able to carry out your duties while in mourning yourself, and don’t be afraid to raise your concerns with the person who has asked you to be their executor.

Consider family dynamics
Don’t be shy to ask if there is existing family tension and to consider how a dispute among family members and friends may affect you. As the executor, you may have to deal with discontented beneficiaries, especially if the estate is unequally distributed.

You can seek help
If you feel uneasy about being named an executor or you don’t think you will be able to handle the responsibility effectively, you have options. If it is not something you feel you can turn down, but you still have concerns about dealing with all the duties involved, you can seek out professional assistance for some or all of your duties – whether that assistance is provided by a trust officer for a trust services company, a lawyer or an accountant.

If you need assistance with your executor duties, or to get a better understanding of the principal duties as an executor, we can help. Please contact us at (519) 252 3195 for more information.