Choosing your Estate Trustee

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The Estate Trustee is/are the person(s) you appoint to carry out your personal wishes in your will. The role of an Estate Trustee is a position of trust that bears much responsibility.

There are a number of tasks involved and some of these include arranging the funeral, examining the will with the lawyer, examining the books with an accountant, locating heirs, taking inventory of and protecting assets, hiring appraisers, applying to court and paying taxes to commence the estate administration process.

You may choose your Estate Trustee and this might be someone you know (such as a spouse, family member, friend) or a professional who understands your affairs and gifting intentions (such as a lawyer, accountant, or Corporate Trustee, which is a company that specializes in estate administration). Your estate trustee should be geographically available, capable, sympathetic (someone your heirs may turn to), reliable, and financially responsible to handle estate liabilities.

If you appoint someone you know, you should first ask for permission before naming someone as your estate trustee as a common courtesy. By asking this person in advance, s/he is less likely to refuse when the time comes to fill the Estate Trustee role. You should also advise them of the location of your will.

If you appoint your spouse and the value of your net family property is greater than that of your surviving spouse, your spouse is entitled to one-half the difference under section 5 of the Family Law Act. If your spouse elects to receive this entitlement rather than what is gifted in the will, your spouse who may be unable to be your Estate Trustee due to a conflict of interest.

In case your appointed Estate Trustee is unable or unwilling to fulfill the role, alternative Estate Trustees should be named in your will.

If your estate is large or complicated, appointing a Corporate Trustee as your Estate Trustee may be a necessary choice.

The Trustees Act permits Estate Trustees to charge a fee to the estate for helping to administer it. Fees average 2-3 percent for the amounts of receipts and disbursements of income and capital. Corporate Trustees normally charge more. In your will, you may reaffirm or prohibit compensation.

Estate Trustees may be subject to liability for their handling of the estate and also an audit and may obtain executor insurance to carry out their role.

Landmark Law Professional Corporation may assist in your Wills and Estates planning matters.

Disclaimer: This article does not contain legal advice and only provides general information. It is not intended to replace advice from a qualified legal professional and should not be relied upon to make decisions. In all cases, contact your legal professional for advice on any matter referenced in this article before making decisions. Use of this article does not establish a lawyer-client relationship.

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Winnie J Luk, BA, JD, MBA, founder of Landmark Law, is a seasoned Ontario lawyer practicing in Wills and Estates, Real Estate, and Business Law and frequent speaker of free legal education seminar.