Advice & Experience on being Executor of a Will


Emil Bizon: 08 May 12

I would like to pass along a tip to all regarding wills. I am now, and have been for a year and a half, working to wind up the estate of my farmer brother. The task would have been a simple one had I been able to do it myself. Unfortunately, I have a co-executor to "work" with and that is a huge pain.

My strong suggestion is not to have a plurality of executors; if you must have that, then choose an odd number and have a majority ruling. I was in court listening to a case where the testator specified three executors and unanimity on all issues. Needless to say the lawyers are winning this one. An estate of around half a million is going to vanish without the beneficiaries seeing any of it.

A further note. The courts- here we do these things in a Chambers hearing- favour lawyers, do not like self represented litigants, have no qualms about allowing lawyers to rampage through an estate for their own benefit. Do not count on a fair hearing.

A further further note. If you are an executor, unless the will and estate are ultra-complex, the probate process is fairly simple and court clerks are unbusy and very helpful. Avoid lawyers and certainly do not give a lawyer full control.

Len Pitura: 20 May 12

I have read with interest the comments on these subjects . We had a very costly and exhausting episode with a trust company that managed a late uncle’s estate. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that we witnessed no desire by the lawyers or the trust company to move with any alacrity .Why should they when the fees keep adding up and there are sufficient funds to keep this game alive . It didn’t help when we discovered too late that the lawyer for the trust company was a class mate of our lawyer !!

I have been and it seems will be an executor . It is onerous if done properly but at least the assets are eventually distributed to the beneficiaries and not to the trust company . I agree there should be an odd number of executors to minimize the challenges of making decisions.

WIH: 08 May 12

Personally, I've been executor for three wills, all modest in size and within our extended family. To Emil's good advice, I would add the following:

  • Avoid probate where possible, although in the case of sudden death, this may not be possible. In all of the wills I handled, death was expected but probate was needed in just one case. In the case of our daughter, her major asset was an RRSP for which her brother was named as beneficiary. It was also security for her line of credit at the TD bank but, they could not legally touch the RRSP. It all went to her brother and avoided probate. In the case of my Mother, she simply gave all of her savings to my brother since that was where the money was to go anyway.

  • The third case was more complex. Eleanor's sister, in a last minute decision, left her savings to a favourite nephew and the amount required probate. I bought a probate guide at a book store and went through the process. Fortunately, I also found a very helpful individual at the Royal Bank where I have banked for many years. The problem in probate was that the deceased had brothers and sisters who were more closely related than the nephew who was to receive the estate. All but one signed the required form to deny any claim. The remaining brother was a ward of the provincial government in an institution for seniors with mental illness. The government stalled for many months, asked a lot of questions but, because the amount was small, eventually signed the form. If the estate had been significant, the government would probably have made a successful claim.