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Estate Litigation Lawyer

How much power does an executor really have?

On Behalf of | Mar 23, 2022 | Executors & Fiduciaries

Some people may wonder if the executor of a will has the last say in the affairs of the deceased. Although the executor does have authority over many things, the one thing he or she cannot do is change the terms of the will. Wills in Ontario are written as part of the last wishes of residents, and an executor’s job is handling those last wishes.

The duties of an executor

The court gives an executor the authority to manage the estate’s affairs, meaning the executor can use finances in the estate in the way he or she sees best to fulfil the wishes of the decedent. Executors must pay any debts out of the estate and transfer bequests to beneficiaries as per the will. If the estate is insolvent (there isn’t enough money to pay the debts), the executor decides how those debts could be paid, under the guidance of the court. That obviously would change how much inheritance money is ultimately dispersed.

What an executor has no power to do

Executors must always act in the best interests of the estate. An executor needs to be able to explain why a certain decision was made if queried. The executor should never act in his or her own best interests, especially when he or she is also a beneficiary. An executor can only be removed from the position if it is proved he or she is either incompetent or has done something wrong. Misconduct could include any of the following:

  • Failure to record the will in probate court
  • Failure to pay estate debts
  • Using estate funds for personal expenses
  • Failure to distribute assets according to the will

When you write your will and other estate planning documents, you should strongly consider naming an executor. This person should be trustworthy, have your wishes at heart and have some sort of financial acumen. An experienced lawyer can be a valuable resource for those with questions and concerns when attempting to create a comprehensive estate plan and for executors in need of any type of guidance or assistance.


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