Garton & Harris

Being an executor involves more than just distributing assets

If you agree to serve as the executor of someone's estate, it means taking on immense responsibility. If a friend or family member appointed you to this position in his or her will, it may be to your benefit to carefully consider whether you wish to take on this role now that the individual has passed away before taking any action that could legally obligate you to carry out an executor's duties.

Distributing property to the heirs and beneficiaries of the deceased is just one of the duties you will undertake. Before making your decision to serve, you may want to know what duties the law here in British Columbia expects you to fulfill. Fortunately, you may enlist help in completing these tasks, but the ultimate responsibility falls to you.

An executor's duties

As an executor, your responsibilities include the following tasks:

  • You make all the funeral arrangements. You may want to consult with the decedent's family members and consider his or her wishes as you do so.
  • You must identify, gather and secure all assets of the estate. This may include changing locks on a home or apartment, putting items into storage and ensuring insurance policies remain in place in case of a loss.
  • You need to notify anyone considered an heir or beneficiary of the decedent regardless of whether the deceased named him or her in the will or any other estate-planning document.
  • You must identify all of the estate's debts and notify all creditors, both known and unknown. If you fail to address a debt of the estate, a creditor could hold you personally liable for the amount owed.
  • You must file any final tax returns of the estate and determine whether estate taxes require payment. Do not make any distributions until you receive clearance from all applicable taxing authorities that no further taxes are due.
  • You need to cancel any credit cards or subscriptions as soon as possible.
  • You will oversee the sale of any estate assets that may be required.
  • You will need to wait at least the minimum amounts of time required by law in order to ensure that no creditor, heir or beneficiary comes forward to make a claim against the estate. Failing to do so could make you personally liable and vulnerable to litigation against you.
  • You will make a final report to the heirs and beneficiaries.
  • You may then distribute the estate's remaining assets in accordance with the will.

Some assets pass to beneficiaries outside of the probate process such as those held in trust or distributed through a beneficiary designation.

If you decide to undertake the responsibilities of an executor, it may be worthwhile to consult with an experienced lawyer who can help guide and assist you throughout this process in order to ensure that you complete each task to the best of your ability.

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