While you can get paid for your duties as an executor of your parents' estate, it's a gruelling job.While you can get paid for your duties as an executor of your parents' estate, it's a gruelling job.

There are legal risks with being executor of your parents’ estate including being sued by siblings if you mismanage the affairs.

The executor is the person who has the legal authority to wrap up your estate.

They have a fiscal responsibility to act on your behalf and to carry out the wishes that you’ve outlined in your will. But what are the risks and responsibilities associated with the role?

Erin Burythe CEO and co-founder of online estate planning platform Willful, says an executor’s job is no easy task.

“It’s a job that is very financially heavy,” says Bury “but it also deals with a lot of the emotional aspects of wrapping up someone’s life.”

As executor of your parents’ estate, Bury says you would be responsible for taking care of your parents’ funeral and burial wishes, closing their bank accounts, selling their properties and personal belongings and liquidating investments.

Once you’ve gathered these assets into a central estate account, you are responsible for liaising with any beneficiaries — such as your siblings — and distributing those funds to them. You would also be filing a final tax return.

The executor should know about all assets, even any digital ones, such as a domain that could be worth money, says Debbie StanleyCEO of ETP Canada and a certified executor adviser.

Stanley says the time it takes to wrap up an estate depends on how complex it is. Typically, it takes one to three years to get it to the point where you can actually distribute funds to beneficiaries.

As the executor of your parents’ estate, you can get paid for your work. Exactly how much depends on your province, the size of the estate and how much work you’ve done versus outsourcing it to professionals, says Bury. In Ontario, an executor generally gets paid five percent of the estate’s total value.

Bury says many people don’t realize how much work it is until you get into the role — it can amount to hundreds of hours and be quite overwhelming.

“It’s important to know that it comes with a lot of weight as an executor to do the right thing,” says Bury. She also notes there’s a legal risk associated with being an executor. If you mismanage your parents’ estate, your family and any other beneficiaries could sue you. Stanley says if the executor isn’t diligent about filing tax returns, the CRA can come back to the executor.

If you’re listed as the executor, you’re allowed to decline. Bury says if there aren’t backup executors on the will, it defaults to the court appointing an executor. Your parents can also supplement a trust company to act as a professional executor, which could reduce the likelihood of any legal or tax errors.

The bottom line is that while you can get paid for your duties as an executor of your parents’ estate, it’s a gruelling job.


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