Once you’ve decided to make a will, one of the next most important decisions you’ll make is to decide who’s going to be your executor.
The executor, sometimes also known as a personal representative or estate trustee, is responsible for managing your estate plan after your passing. It’s up to them to make sure that your wishes, as outlined in your will, are carried out effectively.
Your executor has an incredible number of responsibilities. They act as the custodian of your estate, overseeing the distribution of assets to your chosen beneficiaries and settling any outstanding debts or financial obligations.
They are also responsible for navigating the complex legal and administrative processes involved in estate settlement. Given the substantial duties involved, choosing the right person is paramount.
While it can seem like a simple matter of just picking someone you trust — like a family member or friend — to be your executor, it’s advisable to put serious consideration into your selection. Qualities to look out for include:
- Trustworthiness: Choose someone you trust completely and who is very reliable.
- Responsibility: Pick someone who will treat their duties with the care and consideration the role requires.
- Organizational Skills: An executor should be skilled at managing both paperwork and deadlines effectively.
- Financial Acumen: Ensure they understand and are not easily overwhelmed by financial affairs.
- Legal Knowledge: Familiarity with estate laws is not required but would certainly be an asset. Or at least someone who is not intimidated by legal matters.
- Impartiality: They should treat all beneficiaries fairly and be a good communicator.
- Availability: Even if someone meets all the above requirements, your chosen executor must be able to commit the time necessary to settle your estate, which can be easier if they live nearby.
Why Should I Change the Executor?
You may need to change the executor of your existing will for a variety of reasons, including:
- Unavailability: The original executor is unable (may be deceased) or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities.
- Incapacity: The original executor becomes physically or mentally ill and no longer has the mental capacity to complete the task.
- Estrangement: Relationships change and evolve, and you may have grown apart over the years.
- Life Events: Life events like a divorce or moving to another country would mean that you need to make a new will, possibly with a new executor, for both practical and tax purposes.
Changing the executor of your will is a significant decision that deserves careful consideration. It's essential to select a new executor who is willing and capable of handling the responsibilities effectively to make sure the smooth implementation of your estate plan.
Legal Requirement for Changing an Executor in Canada
In Canada, there are three ways you can make changes (such as altering your executor) to your will:
- Handwritten Changes. The simplest but arguably least desirable way (because it’s easier to refute and can thus provide legal complications) is to make handwritten amendments to your will by crossing details out or adding new information in the margins. To reduce potential legal challenges to handwritten changes, it’s essential to follow the legal requirements: sign the changes and make sure that two witnesses also initial or sign the changes. If you don’t follow these requirements, you risk having your will invalidated.
- Add a Codicil. A codicil to a will doesn't need to change the entire document. Instead, you just attach a statement that refers to your existing last will and testament. In this separate document, you describe the amendment you want to a specific clause. You must sign the codicil in the presence of two witnesses. It may be wise to have a codicil drafted by a lawyer.
- Create a new will. You may simply want to get rid of your old will and start over if there are numerous changes you wish to make. When you create a new will, your original will be automatically revoked.
Generally, most provinces have similar legal requirements for changing an executor in Canada. But, some provinces or territories may have additional requirements, so it’s crucial to do your research or speak to a professional.
For example, in Manitoba, if only minor changes are involved, such as naming a new executor, a codicil can be prepared without two witnesses. But, to do so, the codicil must be in your handwriting and signed and dated.
Changing the executor of an existing will should be undertaken with care. Always consider seeking legal guidance, especially if your changes are complex or if you need more clarification about the process. The key is to make sure that your will is still legally valid after making any amendments.
How to Change the Executor of a Will
Altering the executor of a will involves careful consideration, communication with the new executor, creation of a codicil or new will, and more.
It is a significant decision that should be made carefully and in accordance with legal requirements so that your estate plan remains legally valid. Whether the will is handwritten or created online, the process involves similar steps.
- Consider Carefully: Evaluate your reasons for changing the executor. Make sure it's necessary and in the best interest of your estate and your beneficiaries.
- Get Consent: Before adding a new executor, it’s crucial that you speak with your potential estate trustee to be sure that they want to take on the responsibilities.
- Create a Codicil or Draft a New Will: Depending on your situation, as outlined in the section above, you can either add a handwritten amendment, create a codicil or draft a new will. Make sure that you clearly state the name of the new executor and sign and date the relevant document with witnesses. Follow any additional legal requirements specific to your jurisdiction.
- Update Relevant Parties: When you change your executor, it’s a good idea to inform relevant parties. Be sure to also notify the previous executor. Also, inform your beneficiaries and anyone else who might be affected by the change.
- Keep Multiple Copies Secure: Maintain multiple certified or notarized copies of the updated will or codicil in a secure location. In addition to informing your executor, tell a trusted individual, such as your attorney or a family member, about the change and where to find the document.
- Seek Legal Advice (Optional): If at any time you’re unsure that the amendments you make to your executor — or any changes you make to your will overall — are legally binding, consider consulting with an estate planning professional.
Prepare Your Estate Plan with Willful
As you get ready to prepare your estate plan, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed — especially when it comes to understanding the role of an executor and ensuring you pick the right person to oversee your estate plan.
Preparing your will with Willful can help simplify the process and ease the burden of selecting the right executor.
Willful gives you access to valuable resources, expert guidance, and a user-friendly platform that empowers you to make informed decisions about your estate plan. Willful’s goal is to make sure you have peace of mind that your legacy will be managed according to your wishes.