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It took seven years, 10 court appearances, and $50,000 in lawyer fees to settle the estate of David Edey’s parents. Everything he learned has been packed into a book he wrote called Executor Help: How to Settle an Estate Pick an Executor and Avoid Family Fights.

With our aging population, an increasing number of people are turning their attention to the question of who will administer their estate after they die. What should you look for in an executor, and what should you expect if you agree to serve as an executor? Let’s consult Mr. Edey, a Certified Executor Advisor (CEA) and a 35-year veteran of the financial planning industry:

Q: I’m executor or co-executor in the wills of a few family members. What am I in for?

A: Short answer: Trouble. Most people have no idea what the job entails and the amount of time it will take to settle the estate. It takes about 100 hours or more and 12-18 months to get the estate settled. However, due to COVID-19, it may take longer. You must also deal with beneficiaries who will not think twice to want to sue you. It is a thankless job. The three goals: One, file the right kind of tax return. Two, distribute to the beneficiaries. Three, close the estate.

Q: What are some tips to help me be an efficient executor?

A: You can’t do the job alone, you must have a team of professionals. You must start with: An accountant, to make sure you file the right tax return and you pay the right amount of taxes; a lawyer, who you may need to deal with unco-operative beneficiaries; and, a financial advisor to help manage the assets until they can be distributed. Also, a real estate agent to help sell a property. You also have to stay in constant communication with beneficiaries. Leaving them out of the process can lead to needless tension, conflict, and sometimes legal action

Q: What should people look for when deciding on an executor?

A: Here are some questions to ask yourself if this person would make a good executor: Are they honest? Do they have a lot of patience? Are they well organized? Do they pay attention to details? Can they get along with other people? Do they have time to spare?

Are they willing to take time off from work during the day?

Q: Are executors compensated for their time in any way?

A: The various provincial and territorial Trustee Acts across Canada stipulate that a trustee is entitled to such fair and reasonable financial allowance. There is no fixed rate of compensation applicable under all circumstances for the services of trustees. Canada Revenue Agency regards compensation received by an executor to be taxable income.

Q: When someone asks you to be an executor, is there a polite way to say no?

A: You could say that you are honoured to be asked, but you do not have the time it would take to settle the estate and you do not want to have to deal with the family dynamics.

Q: There are a lot of solo seniors out there who don’t have a close family member or friend who can be an executor? What do you recommend for them?

A: If you cannot find anyone, then look into using a corporate executor through a bank or trust company. I know it is hard, but you need to find someone or you will end up with a court-appointed individual.

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