I’ve been named an estate trustee in a will. What do I have to do?

1. Decide if you can do the job

Estate trustees have a duty to handle the “prudently”.  This means that you have to act carefully and wisely.

Administering an estate can take a long time. It usually takes one to 2 years to administer a simple estate. It can take longer if the situation is complicated, for example:

  • the estate includes property in more than one country
  • there are competing claims by minors, stepchildren, spouses, or common-law partners
  • the estate seems to have more than

Personal liability

Estate trustees have “personal liability”. This means that if you make a mistake dealing with the estate, you might have to pay back any money the estate lost because of your mistake.

You might be able to get estate trustee insurance . This can give you some protection if you make an honest mistake or you get sued. An estates lawyer can help you with this.

Get paid

Usually you're paid for being an . The pay comes out of the estate.

The person's will might say how much you're supposed to be paid. If not, the law says you have the right to get fees that are “fair and reasonable”. This amount depends on what the estate is worth and how much work you have to do. In general, you can be paid:

  • about 5% of the estate's value, and sometimes,
  • an additional care and management fee of 2/5 of 1% of the average annual value of the assets administered.

If you don’t want to be an estate trustee

You can say no if someone asks you to be their estate trustee.

You can also choose not to do it after the person dies. You can do this even if you agreed to be their estate trustee earlier, or if you didn't know they had named you in their will.

If you decide you don't want to do it, you must say no before you start doing anything. Once you start to take any steps as an estate trustee, you might not be allowed to quit unless you get permission from a judge.

If you were named estate trustee in a will but you've decided you don't want to do it, you have to sign a form saying you “renounce” or give up your right to be the estate trustee. This allows someone else to apply to be estate trustee.

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