The Role of the Trustee or Executor of Your Estate

August 11, 2014 in Legal Advice Blog

The Trustee Job is Easy

You may wonder what is involved in being an Attorney or an Estate Trustee. Some people think it’s no big deal so they pick someone to be their Trustee who they want to honour.

Choosing the Estate Trustee

The Estate Trustee is the chief cook and bottle washer when it comes to administering an estate. The best made plans can go badly awry if your chosen Trustee is not up to the task. How bad can it get? Very bad if the Trustee does nothing, does it slowly, fails to keep proper accounts, charges too much, steps on toes, bruises feelings …. well you get the picture.

Many people choose their Trustee using “the honour” system: as in “I think the world of you so I am going to make you my Estate Trustee without knowing whether you are up to the task or not”. Let’s be perfectly clear here, being an Estate Trustee can be a full time job and in all instances carries major responsibility. So let me ask you a question:

If you won’t buy clothes without trying them on, or a car without test driving several models first then why would you appoint someone to such a critical position before checking out his/her credentials ??

What are the Duties of the Estate Trustee

Here is a very brief list of an Estate Trustee’s duties:

Make the funeral arrangements (if not prepaid)
Take control of assets
Clear out a house or apartment
Assume responsibility for paying bills
Distribute or dispose of personal belongings and possibly referee disputes
Let everyone named in the Will know what they are getting
Get everything that is part of an estate valued
Apply to Court for probate, now called Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With a Will (or Without a Will);
Possibly sell assets such as cars, houses, cottages, stocks, bonds (or deal with them according to the Will)
Submit income tax return(s) as required;
Prepare precise accounts that include assets and their values as the date of death, the disposition of those assets and for what price, the income received after death, the money spent after death and summarize all of the foregoing
Deal with personal issues from beneficiaries or people who have been left out
Manage and invest trust monies as a prudent investor would, if applicable (and sometimes being personally responsible for losses)
Decide how much to spend raising young children of the deceased, if applicable
Exercise discretion to encroach on trust funds or not, if applicable
Answer questions about the accounts, if any
Get releases and distribute money or transfer assets in kind.
If you:

own a business,
have interest in corporations or partnerships,
are a professional, or
have special needs beneficiaries, amongst other things,
there is even more to do.

The choice of Estate Trustee is absolutely critical to how well managed and administered an estate is. You do not want to appoint someone blindly. Do your homework. As part of their service to you, your professional team will guide you in what to ask.

Before I leave this topic, a word about Attorneys is in order. Almost everything I said about Estate Trustees applies to Attorneys (with obvious exceptions!). The critical difference is that you deal with the Attorney yourself, while you are alive.

Are you sure you want to leave your well-being in the hands of someone whose abilities you may know nothing about??

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