Conflict of interest is often a question that arises when creating estate plans. Specifically, some people may wonder if naming a beneficiary as an executor could lead to a will being challenged. Certainly, Ontario wills that name beneficiaries as executors do have an added layer of complexity, but this is very common practice and can be a fine solution if navigated properly.
People tend to name beneficiaries to execute their estate due to trust. This person is typically very close, often family, and aware of the person’s assets, liabilities and wishes. There is also an argument that a beneficiary will have more incentive to do a good job with estate administration, since they often feel an obligation to the other beneficiaries and the person who named them.
Conflict tends to emerge when there is a lack of clarity in a will, or when interests of beneficiaries are at odds. For example, one may need cash quickly while another may prefer a longer term investment. If the will does not specify a solution to these conflicts, it can be touchy for an executor who is also named as a beneficiary to make final decisions.
The best way to avoid litigation is not necessarily to forgo naming beneficiaries as executors; often, they are the best suited for the job. Instead, it is making sure that there is a strong team of professionals available to help the person executing the will make legally sound decisions that serve the interests of all parties involved. For example, having an Ontario estate lawyer available right away can help prevent or resolve any issues before they build.