Being an executor can be a full-time and thankless job

This article looks at why being named an executor in a will isn’t the honour it is often made out to be.

When people learn they have been named the executor in a loved one's will their first reaction is usually one of gratitude and honour. After all, the designation signifies a high degree of trust and respect given that the executor will have a great deal of power in administering the testator's estate. However, as the Globe and Mail reports, the role of executor is becoming an increasingly complex and even thankless one. Executors must contend with numerous challenges, not least of which may be unhappy heirs, and administer an estate while receiving little reward for doing so.

Old and new challenges

Being an executor has always been a hard job. The duties of an executor include securing all assets and debts, getting those assets and debts valued, ensuring creditors get paid, filing tax returns for the deceased, redirecting mail, cancelling subscriptions, closing accounts, and gathering the names and addresses of all heirs and next of kin.

All those tasks already mean that being an executor usually requires at least a yearlong commitment, and often twice as long for complex estates. Additionally, executors also have to contend with the threat of litigation from relatives who feel the estate may not have been handled property. Furthermore, new challenges are constantly arising, such as accessing digital assets, which can be especially difficult if the deceased did not leave behind passwords that would help in accessing those assets.

What executors can do

As the Canadian Bar Association points out, just because somebody has been named an executor they are not under any obligation to agree to take on that role. So long as the named executor hasn't already dealt with any of the assets of the estate (such as paying the deceased's debts), then that person can refuse the role of executor. However, once a person agrees to be the executor then that person must complete the job unless a court order relieves them of the position.

Agreeing to become an executor is not something to take lightly. It is complicated, time-consuming, and it exposes the executor to potential liability if disputes arise with heirs or the deceased's next of kin. That's why hiring a lawyer is almost always a good idea. A lawyer can help the executor apply for probate, complete the necessary paperwork, and help with the administration of the estate. Furthermore, legal fees are paid for through the estate, meaning the executor need not worry about the extra cost of hiring a lawyer.

Getting legal help

When looking for legal help in the administration of an estate it is important to contact a wills and estates lawyer who has a proven track record. An experienced lawyer can help those who have been tasked with administering an estate understand what their responsibilities and obligations are and how to protect themselves from any potential challenges or disputes that may arise .