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There are several important roles in estate planning, and you need to think carefully about who to choose for each role. In this article, we’ll outline what those important roles are and tips for how to choose the right person for each role. 

Overview of the most important estate planning roles 

As the testator, you have the responsibility when creating your estate planning documents to fill the key roles to make them legal. These important roles include: 

  • A trusted liquidator to help execute your will 
  • A loved one as a tutor or guardian for your children and pets
  • Your legatees, or those who will receive something from your will 
  • An ethical and responsible person for your power of attorney and protection mandate 
  • A notary, if you’ve created a notarial will 

How to choose a liquidator

A liquidator is the person responsible for carrying out your wishes as stated in your will. They are in charge of the probate process and then distributing funds to the individuals you have chosen as legatees and representing your personal, business and financial interests, after you pass. Typically, this role is fulfilled by a family member or a close friend, such as a spouse or sibling.

When you're choosing someone to be the liquidator of your will, there are a few important things to think about: 

  1. First, pick someone who feels comfortable with the job and can handle making important decisions during tough times. 
  2. Second, make sure that they are available physically and mentally to do the job. 
  3. Third, trust, trust, trust. Trust is key–make sure you choose someone you believe will follow your wishes and represent you well. 
  4. Lastly, make sure to review your choice regularly, especially if big life events happen that make you want to update your will or pick a different liquidator.

Important qualities to look for in a liquidator 

Choosing a liquidator involves considering a number of important qualities. 

They should be trustworthy and honest, and you should feel confident that they won't twist the truth or misinterpret your intentions. A liquidator with integrity will do what's right, even in tough or stressful situations. 

They need to be well-organized to handle paperwork and important dates. Their availability is also crucial, as being a liquidator can feel like a part-time job that can last several years. 

It can be beneficial if your liquidator has financial knowledge, although it’s not essential as they could seek help if they need it. 

Your liquidator should also possess effective communication skills and remain calm under pressure while being firm in holding parties accountable.

To read more about the important qualities of a liquidator, you can read our article  “What is a liquidator in Quebec and how to name one in your will”. 

Is a liquidator the same as an estate trustee? 

A liquidator and an estate trustee are different roles, but they can be done by the same person (on Willful, you choose one person to do both jobs). The liquidator takes care of the whole estate process, which can take between 12-18 months, and then their job is done.

If you have young kids when you pass, Willful creates something called a testamentary trust, which would be managed by the estate trustee. This trust holds your assets until your kids reach a certain age, and the estate trustee manages this trust.

The liquidator’s job ends after the estate process, but the trustee might be involved for a longer period of time.

How to choose a guardian or tutor 

A guardian, also known as a tutor in Quebec, is one of the important roles to consider because it is the person or people that will look after your dependents, like your kids or your pets, when you’re gone. 

Choosing a tutor involves several steps: 

  1. First, set aside time to discuss your values and what's important to you. Consider potential candidates who align with those values and can provide a loving and stable home. 
  2. Second, narrow down your list and include your partner, if applicable, focusing on making a decision rather than finding a perfect one. It may be difficult to imagine anyone else taking care of your loved ones. 
  3. Finally, have open conversations with your chosen tutor and backup options, ensuring they are willing and capable of fulfilling the role. Since this is a big decision and commitment, remember to receive your chosen tutor(s) consent before finalizing your decision in your will.

Important qualities in a tutor for children 

The qualities that are most important in a tutor will reflect what’s most important to you. So this will be a very personal decision. 

However, there are some questions you can ask to help you narrow down your options, such as: 

  • Is this person at a stage in their life where they would want to be a parent? 
  • Could this person manage our children in addition to their own children, if they have them?
  • Do they have a stable financial and home situation? 
  • Do they match the values that we set out? 
  • Would they be open to taking on this role? 

To read more about choosing a guardian or tutor for children, you can read our article “Choosing A Tutor For Your Children In Quebec”. 

Important qualities in a guardian for pets 

For many pet owners, having a pet can feel just like having a child. You love them and want them to be taken care of after you’re gone, so choosing a guardian for your furry friend is important. 

When someone passes away, a pet guardian takes over the ownership and care of their pet. Pets have important needs like being properly fed, going to the vet, and exercising. Choosing a guardian that can fulfill these duties, as well as show your pet the love they deserve, is most important. 

To read more about choosing a pet guardian, you can read our article “What Is A Pet Guardian In Quebec?”

How to choose legatees

The legatee or legatees outlined in your will are the people who you choose to pass on your property or belongings to after you die. 

Many Canadians choose family members or loved ones as their legatees, but you can also choose a charity or organization, via a legacy gift. Common legatees  include spouses, children, family members, and other important individuals in your life. Your liquidator will ensure that your wishes are carried out accordingly.

When choosing your legatees, it’s most important to think of the people and organizations that you value the most, and who you believe would benefit from receiving part of your estate after you pass. 

How to choose a power of attorney 

A Power of Attorney (POA) is an important document that gives someone else the right to make decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself. It's a way to plan ahead and protect yourself in case of accidents or medical emergencies. 

In Quebec, a power of attorney only applies to property, allowing your attorney to act on your behalf while you’re still capable. A power of attorney for personal care is called a Protection Mandate, which comes into effect if you become mentally incapable. Willful is currently unable to offer the ability to create Power of Attorney or Protection Mandate documents in Quebec.

When choosing someone for these roles, consider someone who can handle the responsibility and make tough decisions about your property, health and well-being. 

Remember to review and update your power of attorney and protection mandate as life changes, and make sure your attorney is aware of the tough decisions they may need to make.

Important qualities in a power of attorney

The most important quality in the person you name as a power of attorney or in a protection mandate is trust, so people often select a spouse, family member, or close friend who has their best interests in mind. 

Make sure your chosen attorney is legally qualified, accessible, and able to act quickly in emergencies.

How to create a protection mandate if you have unique needs 

Some people have unique healthcare or medical needs that may require additional consideration when creating their protection mandate documents.  

For instance, transgender, gender diverse, and non-binary individuals face significant barriers when it comes to accessing adequate health care in Canada. Therefore, it’s essential that the person named in protection mandate documents agrees with and deeply understands the individual’s wishes and their lived identity, their unique healthcare needs, and the barriers that the individual has and will face when receiving treatment. 

You can read more about some of the special considerations for 2SLGBTQIA+ couples and individuals in our article “2SLGBTQIA+ considerations for estate planning”. 

How to choose a notary 

There are different types of wills in Quebec, the most common type being a notarial will. A notarial will has to be executed by a notary, which is a professional who is licensed by the Chambres des Notaires in Quebec and therefore has the power to draft and execute wills. Notarial wills are not subject to probate.

You can create a notarial will if you purchase Willful’s Notarial plan.  We guide you through creating your document, and connect you with our notary partner to electronically sign your document. So with Willful’s Notarial plan, there is no need to find your own notary, we will help with that! 

Can I choose the same person for multiple roles in my estate plan?

In general, it depends on the role! 

One thing to note is that to make a will and power of attorney document legal in Canada, you must have two people witness the documents. It’s important to note the requirements for choosing witnesses, including: 

  • Your witnesses could be any two adults, such as friends, neighbours or co-workers.
  • The witnesses cannot be a beneficiary of the will, the spouse of a beneficiary at the time of signing, or a minor. 
  • Each witness must be at least the age of majority and mentally sound.

Your two witnesses can be related to you, or each other, and reside at the same address, as long as they meet the above criteria. 

If you have created a notarial will, there are also witnessing requirements. Willful’s notary partner will make sure that all witnessing requirements are followed, including having the last page of the will signed by the will-maker, the witness or witnesses, and the notary, all in each others presence. 

You can read more about choosing witnesses in our article “How to witness your will in Quebec”.

Can a liquidator also be a legatee? 

Yes, it is common for a liquidator to also be a legatee in a will. In fact, when there is a simple distribution of an estate, such as most of the estate passing to a single legatee, it’s common for that legatee to also be the liquidator. 

Do I need to notify someone if I picked them for a role?

Given the importance of these roles, and the large commitment that is required from the individuals that you choose to fill them, you should notify them if you have selected them for a role. 

What if I change my mind, and want to choose someone else for a role? 

No problem! 

As your life changes, it’s expected that your decisions may change over time. With Willful, you can make easy updates to your will and power of attorney documents, anytime. You can also choose to opt-in to a Willful Membership for $19 per year, which allows you to make unlimited updates to your documents. 

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Now that you have all of the information required to choose people to fill the most important roles in your estate plans, it’s time to get started! Sign up for Willful and complete your legal, online will in just 20 minutes. 

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