What is an Executor and what are their duties and job?

Executor, Duties & Job

When a person creates a Will in Nova Scotia the two main functions of the Will are to determine which assets each beneficiary will receive and to appoint the person who is in charge of following the instructions in the Will. The Executor is title given to the person whose job it is to follow the instructions in the Will.

At the instant of your death all of your property, including land, tangible goods and money, becomes held in trust by your Executor. The Executor is then responsible to carry out the wishes outlined in your Will. However, the very first job is to make arrangements for your body. Although this doesn’t play out in a lot of circumstances, technically it is your Executor who is in charge of determining what happens to your body as well as arranging any sort of memorial or burial.

When it’s time to turn to finances, the first thing the Executor must do is determine what debts you have outstanding.  This includes any amount owing on your last income tax. The Executor is then responsible to payout any outstanding debts out of the assets of your estate. In most cases, a Will directs that an Executor has sole discretion to determine the best way to go about doing this.

Once the debts are paid, the Executor then must turn to identifying the beneficiaries listed in the Will. They will then distribute assets to each beneficiary.  This can be a specific item or amount outlined in the Will.  It could also be a percentage of the value of the estate.  Usually the Executor has the discretion to determine whether they liquidate the assets of the estate or give a combination of goods and money equal to the said percentage of the estate. For example, a very common clause to see in an Will is that ‘I leave my entire estate to my Spouse, but should my Spouse predecease me, I leave everything in equal shares to my children.’  It would be the Executors’ job to determine how to divide the estate equally. 

Being an Executor is a very important job, if the estate must be probated, often it would be the Executor that takes care of this process as well (For more information on probate, read our recent blog ‘ and What is involved in Probate in Nova Scotia).

Since it is such an important role, care must be taken to select someone who is up to the task. (For more information on how to select your Executor, read my recent blog Who Should I Choose as My Executor?’)

In some cases, people appointed as Executors act on their own, however, in many cases the Executor uses some of the assets of the estate to hire a lawyer to help them navigate the process. If you’ve been appointed as an Executor in or around the Halifax, Nova Scotia area and would like assistance, we’d be happy to help.

If you have any questions about executors and what their duties are, we'd be happy to help.  If you have any questions about incorporating you can call us at (902) 826-3070 or email us at info@highlanderlaw.ca to set up a meeting with one of our lawyers at our Tantallon law firm. You can also schedule a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain us.

By: Dianna M. Rievaj LLB, MBA - Managing Lawyer

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