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Wills and estate planning

What is the role of an executor? Add to ...

The executor’s job is central to the estate settlement process – from arranging the funeral, to paying bills, to distributing estate assets.

After someone dies, the executor makes sure that the wishes stated in the deceased person’s will are fulfilled. In addition to arranging the funeral, key tasks often include probate and estate distribution, managing personal assets and paperwork.

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Three key tasks

1. Probate and estate distribution

  • Locating and meeting the beneficiaries to give them an overview of the estate settlement process, from probate to distribution
  • Putting the will through probate, a process where the executor must complete and file a number of forms with a court to prove that the will is valid and that they are the lawful executor
  • Paying out bequests, distributing the remainder of the estate, and setting up and managing any trusts established in the will.

2. Managing personal assets

  • Locating all the deceased’s assets, making a detailed inventory, and reviewing and adjusting any insurance coverage
  • Arranging for the residence to be emptied and cleaned, locks to be changed, and the property sold, if necessary.

3. Paperwork

  • Completing and submitting forms to cancel the person's driver's licence, government benefits, and other entitlements
  • Filing claims for life insurance and pension benefits
  • Preparing and filing the final income tax return for the deceased.

Give your executor flexibility

Give your executor enough powers and flexibility in your will to carry out their duties and ensure that your assets are properly managed until your estate is distributed.

For example, your executor should be able to make investment decisions to respond to changes in the economy or in the stock market in order to maximize the return to the beneficiaries – or to protect asset values from declines.

Executor insurance: Executor insurance can cover any claims that are made against your executor relating to actions or decisions they make in settling your estate. Your executor can buy this insurance at the time of your death. Consider stating in your will that your estate will cover the cost of the insurance if you want your executor to have this protection.


Content in this section is provided in partnership with Investor Education Fund, a non-profit organization founded and supported by the Ontario Securities Commission that provides unbiased and independent financial tools to help Canadians make better money decisions. To find out more, go to: GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca


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