What are the roles of executors in estate planning?

British Columbia residents who have yet to draft wills or establish estate plans may be procrastinating because they are confused by all the legal jargon related to estate planning. Terms such as executors, trustees, fiduciaries and more will all be explained when the individual consults with an estate planning attorney. When drafting a will, the term executor will come into play.

The person who drafts the will is the testator, and typically names an individual in the will -- called the executor -- who is designated to be responsible for carrying out its terms. The executor will become the temporary owner of the estate upon the death of the testator who will settle the affairs of the deceased person. An executor must account for the personal liabilities, taxes, assets and debts of the estate. He or she must pay off the testator's debts and taxes and otherwise follow the directions contained in the will.

It will also be the duty of the executor to file the tax return of the deceased person as well as an estate tax return. There are certain tax consequences upon an individual's death, and a personal income tax return must be filed in the year of death -- reporting final income for the period starting Jan. 1 of that year, to the date of the testator's death. Only after settling all debts and taxes may the executor distribute the balance of the estate to the beneficiaries named in the will. In certain circumstances, the executor could be held liable for any unpaid debts.

Drafting a will and naming an executor is a task that is best accomplished with the guidance of an experienced estate planning lawyer. British Columbia residents who are named as executors could consult with an estate planning lawyer to learn about their duties. The attorney can explain the applicable laws and provide support every step of the way.

Source: FindLaw Canada, "What is an executor?", Accessed on May 11, 2017

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