The Executor’s Duties and Responsibilities
It is not uncommon for beneficiaries to run into problems with the executor when an estate is being administered and distributed. More often than not, these issues are the result of a lack of communication on the part of the executor, or a lack of knowledge, rather than any intentional wrongdoing or mischief. Although the frustrated beneficiary may want to remove the executor immediately, this is not always necessary, or prudent depending on the circumstances.
Before beneficiaries jump to applying to having an executor removed, they should be aware of not only their rights as beneficiaries, but the corresponding duties and obligations which are owed by executors.
Executors do not have free reign in the administration of the estate. Rather, executors have a number of duties and obligations which require a level of accountability, transparency and diligence when they are administering the estate. This should provide some measure of comfort to unhappy or worried beneficiaries.
An executor’s principal duties, which are set out in BC’s Estate Administration Act , include:
1. Protecting the Estate:
- collecting the assets of the estate;
- ensuring the assets are not being wasted;
- determining if the estate has any outstanding claims against someone and if so, whether it is in the estate’s best interest to pursue that claim.
2. Valuing the Estate:
- dealing with creditors and claims, including tax issues;
- preparing an inventory of all assets and liabilities;
- determining benefits due under insurance policies and pension plans;
3. Administering the Estate:
- converting assets to cash, unless the assets are bequeathed to individuals under the will;
- arranging for probate of the will, if necessary;
- settling all claims and debts;
- investing estate assets, if appropriate.
4. Distributing the Estate:
- distributing estate assets to the beneficiaries;
- paying any legacies and other bequests;
- preparing a full accounting of the estate’s administration, which must be given to all the beneficiaries for their approval.
Although the above listed duties and obligations merely touch the surface of this subject matter, the point is that beneficiaries are not powerless and can demand accountability and transparency from the executor.
** Disclaimer – This blog does not provide legal advice and should not be taken as such. For proper legal advice on the above issue you should contact a lawyer.
 Soon to be replaced by the Wills, Estates and Succession Act – for more information please see Jessica Maude’s Blog http://hart-legal.com/estates-changing-laws-in-bc/
 Note: Executors have one year from the date of death to distribute the estate assets. This is called the “executor’s year”. Therefore, beneficiaries cannot make an executor distribute estate assets until the executor’s year is up.