Role of the Executor

Role of the Executor: Estate Administration and Asset Management in Ontario

When an individual passes away, the process of settling their affairs, distributing their assets, and ensuring that their wishes are carried out falls under the purview of estate administration. Executor is the person responsible for overseeing these tasks. Executors play a pivotal role in managing and distributing the deceased person’s assets following the law.

Role of Executors in Ontario

Who is an Executor?

An executor is an individual appointed in a will to manage the deceased person’s estate and ensure the proper distribution of assets. However, if no will or executor is named, the court will appoint an administrator. The appointment of an executor grants them the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. Their role is administrative and fiduciary, requiring them to act in the estate’s and beneficiaries’ best interests.

What does Executor Mean

Importance of Choosing an Executor

Selecting the right executor is a critical decision in estate planning. Factors to consider when appointing an executor include trustworthiness, organizational skills, and knowledge of Ontario’s estate laws.

Who is the Executor

Executor Responsibilities in Ontario

Finding the Will and applying for probate

The person appointed as the executor has the duty of finding the latest will of the deceased and requesting probate from the court. Probate is the process of validating the will and confirming that the designated executor is authorized to distribute the deceased person’s assets. The executor may be required to assist with organizing the funeral arrangements and checking if any dependent children need immediate assistance.

Locating and Valuing Assets

Executors must identify and assess the deceased’s assets, including real estate, financial accounts, investments, personal belongings, etc. This involves conducting a thorough inventory of the estate’s assets and obtaining professional appraisals when necessary to determine their value.

Paying Debts and Taxes

Executors are responsible for settling outstanding debts and taxes the deceased person’s estate owes. This includes notifying creditors, paying valid claims, and preparing the deceased’s final tax return. Funds to cover these obligations are typically obtained from the estate’s assets.

Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries

Once debts and taxes are settled, the executor distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. This involves following the instructions outlined in the will and ensuring that each beneficiary receives their designated share.


It is a legal obligation for executors and administrators to maintain precise records of the estate’s financial transactions. They need to keep a comprehensive record of income, expenses, and distributions. In Ontario, beneficiaries can request an accounting of the estate’s administration. Executors and administrators must provide these accounts as per the law.

Role of an Executor
Executor's Role
Executor Responsibilities

Key Considerations While Choosing an Executor

Some of the key considerations while choosing an executor:

  1. Trustworthiness and Reliability: It is essential that the chosen person has demonstrated a consistent pattern of integrity and dependability over time.
  2. Organizational and Administrative Skills: Administering an estate is no trivial task. It involves many duties, from filing court papers to handling day-to-day details. The chosen executor should possess the organizational prowess to manage these tasks efficiently and effectively.
  3. Availability and Commitment: The person you appoint should be willing and able to commit the necessary time to execute the duties. This includes being readily available in the foreseeable future to undertake long-term responsibilities that can span months or even years.
  4. Financial Literacy: An executor will be required to manage financial matters, such as the liquidation of assets, payment of debts, and distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries. Hence, a foundational understanding of financial affairs and estate law is highly beneficial.
  5. Age and Health: Consider the age and physical well-being of the potential executor. It is advisable to select someone who is likely to outlive you and is in good health to fulfill the duties that could be demanding and prolonged.
  6. Impartiality and Conflict Resolution: The chosen individual should be able to act impartially among beneficiaries, particularly if there are potential or actual conflicts among them. The ability to mediate and resolve disputes is critical in upholding the terms of the will and the interests of all parties involved.
  7. Willingness to Seek Professional Help: Recognizing when specialized knowledge is required is a sign of a prudent executor. They should not hesitate to seek legal, tax, or investment advice to navigate complex issues that may arise during estate administration.
  8. Consider appointing alternate executors: It is wise to designate one or more alternates in case your primary choice is unable or unwilling to serve when the time comes. This provides a safeguard ensuring that the estate is managed without unnecessary delay.
Choosing an Executor


Executors shoulder significant responsibilities regarding estate administration and asset management. They are crucial in ensuring the deceased’s wishes are respected and assets are distributed according to the law. Understanding the role of executors is essential for anyone involved in estate planning or named as an executor in a will, as it ensures a smooth and legally compliant process during a challenging time.

If you need assistance from a Toronto wills and estates lawyer, contact us today and book a consultation with us!

The information provided above is of a general nature and should not be considered legal advice. Every transaction or circumstance is unique, and obtaining specific legal advice is necessary to address your particular requirements. Therefore, if you have any legal questions, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer.

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