The Role of an Executor in Your Will: A Comprehensive Guide

by Tracy Tsui in

When it comes to creating or updating a will, one of the most critical decisions you'll make is choosing an executor since they play a pivotal role in ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your passing. This guide aims to provide a thorough understanding of what an executor does, how to choose one, and what responsibilities come with the role.

What is an executor?

An executor is an individual appointed to carry out the terms of your will. They are responsible for managing your estate, including assets and debts, and ensuring that your final wishes are executed as planned.

What does an executor do?

An executor is responsible for a variety of duties in the distribution of your estate, but yet another reason that conversations with your executor are so important during your lifetime is that their first task once you pass away is to locate where your Will has been stored. Regardless of how you choose to store your Will, your executor should always know where it is. To further safeguard your estate plans, you should also consider registering your will on the Canada Will Registry.

Once they’ve found the Will, there are a number of tasks they’ll be responsible for to carry you your estate plans such as the following:

  • Identifying and contacting beneficiaries
  • Locate all assets such as bank accounts, heirlooms, property, etc. 
  • Securing and safeguarding all assets as pending their disposition or distribution (ie. ensuring that insurance policies will cover assets like property while the estate is under administration)
  • Handle any debts and liabilities of the person’s estate
  • File appropriate tax returns for the deceased and estate
  • Ensure payment of specific bequests (ie. gifts made to charities)

Although funeral wishes are often carried out by the family, it’s important to note that the executor is the person who has the legal authority to make those decisions. Also, executors will be entitled to claim a fee for the time and effort spent on administering the estate based on the laws in the province.

How do I choose my executor?

Choosing an executor is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. Your executor will be responsible for carrying out your wishes as outlined in your will, so it's crucial to select someone you trust and who is capable of handling the responsibilities. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing an executor for your will:

Comfort with Responsibility

Being an executor can be a stressful role, especially under the circumstances. Choose someone who is organized, level-headed, and capable of making critical decisions during a potentially stressful time.


Is your chosen executor available to take on this role? Consider their physical location and mental availability. Someone who loves to travel or lives off the grid may not be the best choice.


Although your will is legally binding, it's essential to choose an executor you believe will execute your wishes and represent you well after you're gone.


Choose an executor who is likely to be alive and in good health when you're no longer around to avoid complications for your family.

Regular Review

Like the rest of your will, you should review and update your choice for executor as life happens. Significant life events may trigger a need to revisit your decision. Additionally, as you make changes over time to your will, your executor should be up to date on those changes. 

Can I appoint more than one executor in my Will?

Yes, appointing more than one executor is an option you can consider when planning your will. When you choose multiple people for this role, they are known as co-executors. Here's what you need to know about appointing co-executors:

Shared Responsibilities

Co-executors share the responsibilities of administering your estate. This can be beneficial if you have two people you trust and want to share the role, such as two adult children.

Agreement is Essential

With co-executors, both individuals must agree on every decision throughout the estate administration process. If they cannot reach an agreement, their only recourse is to go to court, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Communication is Key

It's crucial to ensure that your co-executors get along and are clear on your wishes. Open communication between them can prevent misunderstandings and disagreements.

Inform Your Executors

Regardless of whether you choose one or multiple executors, it's essential to sit down with them to ensure they are willing to take on the role and understand their responsibilities. Make sure they know where to find the most recent copy of your will and other essential information. Additionally, this will always be further safeguarded  by registering your will on the Canada Will Registry. This centralized registry can make it easier for your executors to locate your will when the time comes, ensuring a smoother estate administration process. 

What happens if I don’t have anyone reliable to serve as an executor?

In cases where a person is not married or has no children, they may struggle to find a loved one whom they can assign as an executor. In some cases, you may also appoint a professional executor in tandem with a family member. Professional executors are trust companies, individuals, or financial institutions that specialize in estate administration.

When selecting an executor for your will, trust is paramount—choose someone reliable to handle sensitive financial and personal matters. Ensure they have the skills to navigate the complexities of legal and financial responsibilities. Confirm their willingness to take on the role, and consider the logistical implications if they reside far away. It's also prudent to have an alternate executor as a backup.

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