Choosing Your Executor and Trustee: A Decision That May Be More Important Than You Realize.

Choosing Your Executor and Trustee: A Decision That May Be More Important Than You Realize.

Written by Diane Enns

Let’s cut to the chase right off the bat. The harsh reality is that you’re going to die some day, and if you’re married, so is your spouse.  

Besides loved ones left to mourn your absence, you'll also leave an estate that needs to be dealt with, typically by an executor who has been named in the Last Will and Testament. Probably ninety percent of the time, the executor is left with a substantial job.  It can cause an enormous amount of stress as well as personal liability.  Unfortunately, you just can’t know with complete certainty if your estate will be in the 10% of simple estates or the 90% grouping of more difficult estates. Even the ones that appear to be simple can end up being burdensome. I could tell story after story about estates that appeared to be quite basic at the outset and sadly, ended up being everything but that.   

If this is true, why would anyone want to leave this job to a family member or friend? If you think about it, how many of us do what we can while we’re alive to make our children's lives harder? I would suggest that most of us do the opposite! We see how busy they are, how they’re struggling in life, and we do what we can to make their lives easier and better. So again, I ask, why would anyone decide to weigh children down with the job of the executor when it’s guaranteed to make their life more difficult. Having just lost my second parent in January of 2023, I know first-hand that the grief is enough to deal with.  

One reason clients give us for why they choose to leave the job of executor to a family member or friend is because their family member or friend is an accountant, doctor, engineer, teacher, business owner, or is just super smart. There’s certainly a lot of intelligent people out there but it’s often the case that their area of expertise doesn’t cross-over into the world of estates. Just like a teacher may not have the skill to do a surgery, an engineer may not have the skills to administer an estate. As I look at my own children all in university, I have one in law school (sadly she is not following in my footsteps and entering the world of estates and trusts), one in nursing college, and one in commerce. All three are smart but that doesn’t mean any one of them would make a good executor. 

In addition to not necessarily having the skills required to administer an estate, a person may not have the time to do the job.  Depending on the quantity, variety, and complexity of the assets, it can take a significant amount of time to address those matters in the first year. An executor with a full-time job, with or without a family, is likely going to be busy and may not have the time to spend working on the estate. Think about how busy your children are now. Do you think they would have the time to administer your estate if you died today?  Also, can you guarantee your executor will be in good health, or alive, when you die?  

A final quality to look for besides skill and time, is impartiality. Does the child you’ve named as Executor get along with his or her siblings or is he or she just the ‘bossy’ one?  Does he or she communicate well, is trustworthy, and can mediate if needed? If you’ve chosen the peacekeeper in the family to be the executor, is he or she easily swayed? There are often very sensitive matters that rise to the surface after the 2nd parent has passed away, and your executor should be mentally healthy to handle it all professionally and not let their own emotions get in the way and skew their judgment.  

Sometimes, even when people know their family member or friends don’t check all the boxes, people simply leave the job of the executor to their family member or friend because they don’t realize they have another option. That option is a corporate executor like Amity Trust. Hiring a Trust company, whether it’s Amity Trust or any other corporate Executor, can give you peace of mind knowing the trust company has the needed expertise, the time available, and 3rd party impartiality to work on your estate.  You can rest easy that your estate will be handled professionally and through to completion.  

One of the things that makes Amity Trust unique is that we’re the only Trust company that is Saskatchewan-owned. We’re also a not-for-profit which allows us to charge the lowest rate of any corporate executor, and possibly less than your own family member or friend. Because we’re your Saskatchewan Trust company, our people are practically and maybe literally, your friends and neighbours. That means that if you’ve chosen Amity Trust to be your Executor, you can have comfort in knowing we’ll serve your beneficiaries with compassion, and to do the best job we can. It’d be our honour to help your family in this way if you choose to trust us with this work. 

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