What to consider before becoming an executor
Updated: Apr 22
Being asked to be the executor of another’s estate is a great honor; it means the individual trusts you to carry out their last wishes, however, the saying “with great honor comes great responsibility” couldn’t apply better in this scenario as being an executor is no walk in the park. Prior to accepting the offer you would be well-served to consider:
1. The estate itself, for example:
a. How complex is the estate? All estates are not created equal; complicating factors can include:
Does the testator (testator = who the will is for/who the estate stems from) maintain an accurate list of all their assets, debts, insurance, etc.?
Has the testator maintained an accurate cost base of their investments for tax purposes?
Are there family complexities?
Are there dependents of the testator?
b. Starting from when you accept, are you readily available to take on this task at any point in time? Timing is out of all our control; accepting an executorship on the premise that 30 years from now you will have ample availability is a mistake.
c. What will you need to start doing right away? Being a good executor means being proactive, for example:
Knowing where the original will and list of assets, debts, insurance, etc. is held.
Having a copy of the will and the above-mentioned list PLUS having these documents reviewed by a professional to see if there are any problems to note.
Speaking with the testator about problems you have been advised about along with challenges they may see arising.
d. What will you need to do when the testator passes? Being an executor is not as simple as reading the will and doing what it says, there may be a lack of clarity or information, you may be getting pushed in multiple directions by family members, etc.. Knowing what you will need to do is of the utmost importance.
e. How long will you be an executor for? Being an executor can be very prolonged. Clauses that stipulate money be released in portions as beneficiaries age (e.g. Jim receives 30% at age 20, 50% at age 30 and the remainder at age 40) are common and typically result in the executor being required to continue until all of the beneficiaries have reached the age at which they are eligible to receive their full entitlement.
2. Are you ready? Be honest with yourself when determining if you have the necessary skills to be an executor. At the very least, being an executor requires you to be detail-oriented, to have strong people skills and to have a base financial/legal understanding.
To conclude, this article points to SOME of the items you should be aware of when considering an executorship. My advice is: prior to accepting an executorship you should seek out a professional to help you understand what would be required of you and what further questions you should ask of the testator to ensure you have a full and accurate understanding of what you would be accepting before you make any decisions.