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Estates & Wills & Trusts

Make sure the executor of your will wants the job: Allinotte

Before you appoint an executor of your will, make sure they understand what the role entails and are willing to take on the responsibilities, Cornwall wills and estates lawyer Michele Allinotte tells AdvocateDaily.com.

"It could be difficult for them," she says, noting a daughter with five children may not have the time needed to take on the associated tasks.

Allinotte, principal of Allinotte Law Office Professional Corporation, says the first step is to talk with family members to determine if those being considered are prepared or capable of taking on the responsibilities.

"You have to consider the family dynamics and personality clashes and make sure you choose the person best suited to administer your estate," she says. "I've been telling my clients that it's not necessarily an honour, it's a job."

If there are more than two estate trustees, she suggests including a majority rule clause in the will to prevent stalemates in estate decision-making. 

"I recommend that my clients should first ask the people they are thinking of appointing to determine if they can get along with each other," Allinotte says.

She says an executor should be an organized, trustworthy, practical person who employs common sense in dealing with the myriad tasks and issues that arise.

"You don't want someone who will be a pushover to the beneficiaries," Allinotte says. "You need to think of all the eventualities and practicalities of who you are appointing and why."  

After deciding to prepare such a document, she suggests people choose a lawyer who "doesn't just dabble in wills, because they may not think of all of the issues involved, or have the experience of someone who regularly works in the practice area." 

Allinotte says she likes to meet with her clients twice when creating a will. The first is to review everything and set up the documents, while the second is to give time to reflect and revise before signing off to ensure the plan is the right one, she says.

For complicated and large estates, or if there is no suitable family member available to take the role, professionals such as lawyers and accountants can be appointed as well as trust companies. 

The task of being an executor involves handling the deceased's property as well as developing an inventory of assets, dealing with utility and insurance companies and determining whether assets are to be sold or donated.

A lawyer can help sort through documents found in a shoebox to determine what assets there are and who needs to be notified, Allinotte adds.

She says the estate trustee is also responsible for funeral arrangements, debts to be covered and tax issues associated with the estate.

"Practically speaking, it's about how your house will be cleared out," Allinotte says. "That's not necessarily a fun or simple job, but we can provide as much or as little assistance as the estate trustee requests. 

The tasks are made easier if a proper will is in place, she says.

"Without one, everyone is standing around without the authority to do anything. Someone has to come forward to be appointed executor, and there could be some jockeying for that position," she notes.

 

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