To ensure you're making the right choice for executors and equipping them with the necessary tools to do the job well, follow this checklist:
• Think about the range of abilities required to administer your estate. Is there real estate to sell? Are there investments to liquidate? A business to manage?
• Make a list of the people you know and trust who could do the executor job well.
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• Consider the advantages of appointing more than one executor to work together. Perhaps neither one alone has all the tools necessary to get the job done, but as a team they do. This also has the benefit of sharing the load on more than one set of shoulders, and providing checks and balances - two heads may well be better than one.
• Consider the value of a corporate executor, to reduce strain on family relations and ensure an impartial and expert estate administration.
• Ask your preferred executor if he or she is willing to accept the role. Be realistic about what the task will involve to elicit a meaningful response, because if your selection is unwilling or unhappy about taking on the responsibility, far better to find out now than to make it an issue after your death.
• If your executor agrees to act, inform affected beneficiaries to prevent unwelcome surprises at the time of death.
• Leave your executor written guidance about what the estate assets consist of, where to locate them, which advisers should be involved, whether family heirlooms require special treatment, and any funeral wishes to be followed.
• If payment of executor compensation is expected, then do everyone a favour - confirm that in writing, and specify how it is to be calculated in your will.
Special to the Globe and Mail