The executor or executrix of the estate is the person designated in the will. This person will take responsibility for the debts and disbursement of the estate, taxation and all other responsibilities from the funeral to completing the final tax returns.

This person will have to be capable of completing the duties that will be assigned. If you have a complex estate that you might consider a professional person to take on this role.

You should talk over your wishes with your executor so burial arrangements, the division of your estate and the scope of the duties is understood. You might even have a back-up, an alternate executor in case your firstly-named executor is unable to deal with the duties when you die.

The executor has to notify the insurance companies that provide coverage for home, automobile and any other insurance policies. Likely these companies will want a death certificate and often a signature from the executor.

The executor can make arrangements for adding driver(s) to the vehicle insurance. What will the use of vehicle now be? What is happening with the home? Is it vacant, to be rented or has a family member moved in? The insurance companies will want to know.

Be sure to understand the scope of your duties if you agree to become an executor. You likely will want to talk over the situation with a lawyer or accountant. Expect to have to do at least some or all of the following:

  • Locate, read and if necessary interpret the will of the deceased.
  • Set up probate of the will. This means you will have to hire a lawyer and set up the court validation of the deceased's will.
  • Talk to the beneficiaries of the will. You may have to track these people down.
  • Assist with the necessary funeral arrangements.
  • Review the estate and list all the assets and debts. These debts will likely include estate expenses.
  • Determine which banks, insurance companies or financial institutions need to be notified of the death and accounts closed. If there is property that still requires insurance you will have to sign paperwork amending the named insured to "the estate of". You will need the death certificate and the will to show that you are the executor and empowered to make these changes.
  • If the deceased had a government or military background there is likely a pension and final death benefit to be reviewed.
  • Disperse the assets to the beneficiaries as per the instructions of the will.
  • Contact Canada Revenue and be prepared to file a final tax return for the deceased.

Be aware that you will need to have the time to do this job properly. As well you will need some expert advice if you do not have the financial or accounting background necessary to do the job well.