Almost everyone who reaches out to me about estate planning asks what they can do to prepare for our first meeting.  This is a great question, because it will make our initial consultation appointment more productive.  After our consultation, clients often express their surprise at how much there is to consider, even when they thought their wills would be super simple.

There are a number of factors to consider when preparing your estate plan, and each one has its own set of mini factors.  So, I’ve decided to create this blog series to help.  I am dedicating a separate post to each of the main questions I will ask you to consider, and information I will ask you to gather.

Preparing for Your Estate Planning Appointment

Part 1: Executors

One of the most important decisions you will make is the appointment of your executor(s).  This is the person who administers your estate after you pass away.  They will make an inventory of your assets, cancel subscriptions, pay off debts, and gather contact information for all of your beneficiaries and next of kin (among other things).  They will also commence a probate application at the BC Supreme Court (if required).  Eventually, they will distribute your assets according to your will.  They may also be required to administer ongoing trusts, such as trusts for minor children or grandchildren, or for a disabled beneficiary.  It can be a big job, which is why they are entitled to be paid for it.

There are several important factors to consider when selecting an executor, including their:

  • Age
  • Financial competency
  • Willingness to serve
  • Residency
  • Relationship to beneficiaries (and guardians, if applicable).

I generally don’t recommend selecting someone significantly older than you to act as your executor, because chances are, you will outlive them.  Of course, there are always exceptional circumstances.  People will often appoint their spouse first, and a sibling or an adult child as an alternate.  Single people often appoint siblings or friends.  The most important thing is that they are the right person for the job. Which brings me to my next point:

Your executor needs to be competent managing property, paying bills, and attending to paperwork.

In some cases, a surviving spouse may actually not be the best choice for this role.  And obviously, someone who has a history of dishonesty (or worse, fraud) would not be a good choice.

Your executor needs to be willing to do the job.  It’s always a good idea to ask this person in advance to see how they feel about the appointment.  Otherwise, you risk having them renounce the executorship, in which case your alternate executor (I’ll get to that in a minute) will have to step in.

You will want to make sure your executor is a Canadian resident, so that any trust created by your will doesn’t inadvertently take on a foreign residency (which can cause some serious tax trouble).  A trust is considered a separate legal entity and has a residency.  The residency is substantially based on the location of the central management and control of the trust, which is strongly linked to the location of the trustee (regardless of where your assets are located).  If there is a chance your executor may relocate in the future, you will want to prepare for that as well.


In addition, you will want to consider how well the executor gets along with your beneficiaries and the guardian(s) you have selected for you minor children, if applicable.  (Spoiler alert: guardians will be my next topic!)  If you are appointing a separate person (or people) to become the guardians of your minor children, those guardians will have to work closely with the trustee of your children’s trust fund for (potentially) many years.  Therefore, it would be ideal if those people have a good working relationship with each other.

Conflict is no fun, and it’s the last thing your family needs to deal with when they’re grieving the loss of you!

Note: you can appoint a separate person to act as trustee of a trust fund created in your will, rather than having your executor do it.  Most commonly, however, it is the same person.

Now a brief word about alternate executors.

You should always appoint an alternate (or backup) executor, just in case the first person is unable or unwilling to serve (or to continue to serve).  This is especially important if there is a possibility of lengthy, ongoing trusts.  All of the above considerations apply again in the selection of your alternate executor.

You can also appoint multiple individuals to act together.  Having an even number of executors can cause trouble if there is a disagreement, which could lead to a deadlock.  Having too many executors can also cause delays and administrative hurdles.

Lastly, if you feel really stuck and don’t seem to have any good candidates for the job, there are always professional trust companies.  They often charge a hefty fee, and they can be somewhat impersonal for your beneficiaries and guardians to deal with.  However, they are usually proficient at their job, and for some, they are the best option to avoid animosity among family.

So, I’ve given you lots to think about.  I hope this helps you to decide who you should appoint as executor.

Have a question? Shoot me a message, I would be happy to help 🙂

This article is intended to provide general information only and is not legal advice.