By Bethany Anderson
Choosing an estate trustee (executor) is an important decision and your ideal choice will depend on a number of factors. Spouses often appoint each other but need to consider an alternate estate trustee for after both spouses have passed away, or in case the surviving spouse has become incapable.
There are some qualities that you should ensure the person you are appointing has, such as trustworthiness, organization, possibly negotiation skills, and at least a basic understanding of finances. As you age, you should also consider the age of your alternate estate trustee and try to find someone younger than you, if possible.
It is best to appoint Estate Trustees who reside in Ontario, or within Canada. Appointing a Trustee who resides in the United States, for instance, can carry with it a host of issues, such as cross border taxation concerns, the requirement to post a bond, and practical/logistical issues related to dealing with assets in Ontario.
The people you appoint need not be experts in all fields; a proper Will usually provides your Trustees with the power to hire the professionals he or she may require, such as accountants, lawyers, financial planners, etc., and to pay them their ordinary fees.
Your Estate Trustees are fiduciaries and need to make decisions that they will be responsible for, however, they should be able to work with the assistance of professionals in their respective fields.
Remember that being appointed estate trustee can be a daunting task. It can be quite a lot of work and you might be putting your potential estate trustee in a tough spot. It is always best to ensure that the person you have in mind is comfortable being appointed, has the time to dedicate to such a task and does not feel that they have a conflict of interest. Sometimes circumstances and family dynamics are such that a person may feel that they are not the right person for the role and it is best to have that information and respect it. An honest discussion can be beneficial and will likely prevent a situation where the appointed trustee chooses not to act when the time comes.
Depending upon your situation, a professional trust company can also be a good option. Trust companies will usually wish to review the draft Will, and it is normal for them to ask you to include specific clauses to ensure they are able to act. Your estate planning lawyer will be able to work with you to ensure that your Will reflects your wishes and contains the powers required by the trust company.
Bethany runs the Wills and Estates department at MGPC
You can contact Bethany with your estate planning questions at: banderson@gage