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What is an executor / estate trustee and what are his / her duties?

An executor is the personal representative appointed by the deceased in his/her Will. If there is no will a court can appoint someone an Estate Trustee without a Will to be the personal representative of the estate.

It is the executor’s responsibility to gather in the assets of the estate, pay the debts of the deceased, apply for probate (if necessary) and distribute the assets of the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.

In general terms the executor/estate trustee must collect the assets that belonged to the estate, ensure all liabilities are paid (including taxes), maintain the accounts of the estate, and distribute the assets in accordance with the terms of the will. If there is no will, then the assets of the estate must be distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy as outlined in Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. S.26.

When assuming this role it is imperative to remember that the executor is a fiduciary which requires the executor to administer the Will solely in the interest of the beneficiaries. For more particulars on the duties of an executor, we refer our clients to 4 different sites for an overview of their responsibilities:

  1. TD Waterhouse’s on line checklist and description of responsibilities found at here.
  2. An article published by the Certified General Accountants of Ontario titled “Executorship: A Guide for Those Called Upon to Act as an Estate Trustee. This can be found here.
  3. Canada Revenue Agency’s Advice – What to do when someone has died.
  4. Canada Revenue Agency’s Frequently Asked Questions on what to do when someone has died.
  5. Ontario Government Advice on When Someone dies – Pensions, Benefits and Personal Finance.
Frequently Asked Questions
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