Estate Executor

An estate executor has many duties. In Ontario, several words describe this role, including Executrix, or Estate Trustee. Simply put: the executor carries out the wishes of the deceased and winds up the estate according to the will and any applicable laws.

The executor gets his/her powers by obtaining “probate.” Obtaining probate results in a certificate giving the Executor powers to deal with the estate. The term “obtaining probate” describes the process to certify the validity of a will. This will result in the court issuing a certificate to set out the executor’s authority to act to administer the estate. Click here for more information about the probate process.

While a comprehensive list of duties for an executor varies from case to case, some of the primary responsibilities include:

  1. Collecting and inventorying the deceased person’s assets: The executor must locate and collect all of the deceased person’s asset. This includes real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and any other assets. They must also create an inventory of all assets, and provide the value of assets for probate and/or tax purposes.
  2. Paying the deceased person’s debts and taxes: The executor must pay any outstanding debts or taxes that the deceased person had at the time of their death. This includes any outstanding mortgages, credit card debts, medical bills, and taxes.
  3. Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries: After paying all debts and taxes, the executor must distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will. This includes ensuring that the beneficiaries receive their inheritance in a timely manner and in accordance with the will.
  4. Filing the necessary paperwork: The executor must file the necessary paperwork to open and close the estate. This includes the will and any necessary probate documents. They must also comply with all deadlines and legal requirements.
  5. Representing the estate in legal proceedings: If any legal disputes or challenges arise, then the executor must represent the estate in court. They must also ensure to protect the estate’s interests in any prior legal proceedings.
  6. Keeping beneficiaries informed: The executor must keep the beneficiaries informed of the progress of the estate administration. This includes providing regular updates on the status of the estate, and answering any questions that the beneficiaries may have.
  7. Maintaining accurate records: The executor must keep accurate records of all transactions related to the estate, including receipts, invoices, and bank statements. They must also provide an accounting of all transactions to the beneficiaries and the court.
  8. Protecting and investing the assets: The executor must take steps to protect and invest the assets of the estate until finally distributing those assets to the beneficiaries. This includes insuring the assets, and maximizing returns on capital while minimizing risk.

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a general summary of the main duties of an executor. It is a good idea to consult with a lawyer to help guide you through this sometimes complex process.

The executor has legal and moral obligations. These include carrying out the instructions of the will and acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries. This can feel overwhelming, particularly when the responsibility falls to grieving family members.

A lawyer can help. While the deceased may have named executors in a will, it is also possible to apply to the court to have an executor appointed who is not specifically named. This allows named executors to avoid the complexity administering an estate. Instead, it passes the responsibility to someone better equipped to handle the various steps involved, such as a professional.

If you are seeking to hire a lawyer to be the executor for an estate, or if you are a named executor and want assistance with the administration of an estate, contact us for help.

For more information about the duties of an executor, please refer to the Ontario Government’s webpage at
Sheard Law PC - Toronto Family and Estates Lawyers


Sheard Law PC - Toronto Family and Estates Lawyers