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I am drawing up my will. My lawyer wishes to know who I would like to name as executor (or personal representative, as they appear to be known in Canada). Can I name a person who already stands to benefit from my estate? I am thinking of naming my sister and she is already listed as a designated beneficiary of the estate.

Having spent the past ten months dealing with an estate, it seems completely unfair to designate someone who does not stand to benefit. Obviously, one would need to trust that their executor would administer the estate appropriately, and I certainly trust my sister to do so.

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2 Answers 2

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Executors should be paid a fee for services performed since, as you know from personal experience, there can be a fair amount of work involved in settling the estate. The will might state a fee (e.g. 1% of the estate) but, if not, the probate court can decide what the fee should be and authorize the executor to deduct the fee from the assets of the estate before distributing the assets, filing the final income tax return and estate tax return, etc. The court also might choose to decide that an executor's fee stated in a will is too small or too large and change it.

Whether Canadian law allows a beneficiary to be the executor as well is something you need to find out from your own lawyer. In the US, laws regarding inheritance also vary (usually in definitions of terms, and many details) from state to state, and if a similar situation occurs in Canada too, then your lawyer will tailor your will to the laws of your Province. But, please understand that will-making is really not a do-it-yourself process, and I urge you to have a lawyer draft the will rather than relying on advice from Internet forums -- including this one!

Squabbles between beneficiaries, one of whom is the executor, are not unknown. But beneficiaries have also been known to sue a non-beneficiary executor, or move the probate court to dismiss the executor etc because the beneficiaries are unhappy with the way the estate is being divided among them by the executor. If you trust your sister and the laws of your Province allow it, by all means consider having her be the executor of your will. But be aware that if you are passing over your spouse or adult children in naming your sister as executor, there are going to be hard feelings.

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Thank you. Definitely having my lawyer draft up the will, just wanted some clarity on this aspect. My spouse's estate is the estate I've spent the past ten months administering. We had no children. –  ChrisInEdmonton Feb 23 '12 at 17:44

If your sister is the only beneficiary, then I would say it makes sense to name her as executor. If she is one of many beneficiaries, then it I would leave it to a third party, perhaps your lawyer or a trusted friend. You do not want money squabbles between family members once you are gone. It is best for that to not be part of your legacy.

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It seems really hard to designate a third party. I know who I'd use, but it seems like such a huge amount to ask of a trusted friend. Perhaps it makes more sense to use my lawyer. –  ChrisInEdmonton Feb 23 '12 at 17:47

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