Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Naming an executor is one of the most important parts of setting up your will. A well-chosen executor will help to ensure everything goes smoothly when your estate is settled one day.
Not appointing an executor doesn’t just create uncertainty for your survivors—it can also lead to more expenses for them. For example, in Ontario, without an executor, someone will need to apply to be a trustee and pay a 1.5% fee if the estate is worth over $50,000.
Most of us don’t like to talk about what happens after we die. Writing a will and naming an executor aren’t not exactly dinner party-friendly conversations, which means there are a ton of misconceptions out there that prevent us from making good decisions with our wills.
Last month we asked you to ask yourself these five important questions before saying yes to being an executor.
Today, we debunk six common myths about executors that need to go.
Myth #1: You only need one executor
Truth: Naming more than one executor ensures that even if one executor is ever unavailable, there’s someone else who can legally manage your estate.
While there’s technically no limit to the number of executors you can appoint, naming too many could become problematic. Think too many cooks in the kitchen.
It’s also important to consider the dynamics between the people you appoint. Your two friends who aren’t on speaking terms are not the best people to work together to settle your estate.
Myth #2: Your executors have to be family
Truth: Sometimes the best person to handle your estate is someone you’re not related to. This is especially true if there are complicated family dynamics, strained relationships, or your family lives far away from you.
Family should only be appointed if you believe they’ll be able to adequately complete the tasks involved in settling an estate. Having an executor who’s in over their head can cause a lot of stress during an already stressful time for your loved ones. If no one in your life feels like a good fit to be an executor, a lawyer or other estate professional is often the best choice.
Myth #3: Once you select executors you don’t need to change them
Truth: The one constant in life is change. People move, relationships evolve or break down, and sometimes the people you chose to be your executors aren’t the best fit anymore. It’s important to review your will every few years, especially if there’s been any major life events for you or your executors. Keeping a copy of your will in an easy to find place, like your EstateBox, makes it quick and easy to review. A simple text or email to your executors asking if they’re still able to serve in that role ensures everyone is still on the same page. If they’re no longer able to serve as your executor, it’s a good idea to update your will and select someone else.
Myth #4: Your executor can manage your assets if you’re ever incapacitated
Truth: Your executor is only able to manage your estate after you pass away and has no authority while you’re still alive, even if you’re incapacitated. To ensure you and your assets are taken care of in a medical emergency, it’s important to appoint a power of attorney and healthcare proxy. A power of attorney has the authority to manage your money or property on your behalf while you are alive, whereas a health care proxy will make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to communicate your wishes.
Myth #5: An executor cannot be a beneficiary
Truth: In many cases, there’s absolutely no reason to avoid naming an executor who is also a beneficiary. In fact, often the people who are most familiar with your estate, are also people you’d like to name as beneficiaries like a spouse and children.
That said, if there are challenging family dynamics at play with some family members or friends, you may want to consider avoiding this situation. What’s most important is to consider the relationship between the people you select as executors and name as beneficiaries.
In cases where there’s mistrust or ill feelings between family or friends, appointing someone who doesn’t have a history with your executors or beneficiaries can help prevent conflict.
Myth #6: Your executor only needs your will to settle your estate
Truth: While your will is an important document in your estate plan, it's not the only thing your executor will need access to after you pass away. They’ll also need key documents like insurance papers, bank documents, and your digital assets.
This is where a digital life and legacy planning platform like EstateBox will make settling your estate easier, faster, and more efficient for your executor. (And give you peace of mind, too.)
EstateBox is an online solution to a manual, inefficient way of managing all your documents and life details in your estate plan and beyond. With EstateBox, you can easily and efficiently organize your life details all in one safe, secure platform by uploading your personal information like your will, bank account details, loans, and other valuable assets. You can then grant access to specific streams as needed to the key people in your life—including executors, advisors, and other trusted loved ones.
Keeping all your important documents and information in one, easy to access place like your EstateBox ensures your executor will have access to everything they need to settle your estate one day.
Now that you’ve learned the truth about being an executor—learn more about the many tasks that fall to an executor when settling an estate in our executor guide and exclusive Executor Checklist download.
While we’re passionate about all things estate planning, we’re not professionals. We recommend speaking with your lawyer or financial advisor when putting together an estate plan.