2. Choose an estate trustee

What do I need to think about when making a will?
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2. Choose an estate trustee

The person who deals with your estate after you die is called an estate trustee. They are also called executors, estate representatives, personal representatives, estate administrators, or liquidators.

Being an estate trustee is a big responsibility and can sometimes last for years.

What an estate trustee does

Your estate trustee:

  • arranges your funeral and burial or cremation
  • stops payments that end on death, like Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), social assistance, and disability insurance payments
  • cancels your social insurance, driver's licence, and OHIP card
  • finds and values all assets in your estate
  • applies for probate if needed
  • pays any taxes and debts that you owe
  • files your final income tax return
  • distributes your estate based on what your will says

Choosing an estate trustee

Here are some things to think about:

  • Choose an adult you trust and who's likely to live longer than you.
  • Choose someone who is organized, responsible, and knows about finances.
  • Choose someone who lives in Ontario. It can be easier for someone who lives close by to deal with your estate. Also, if your estate trustee does not live in Canada, they might have to pay a bond. A bond is the estate trustee's promise to pay an amount of money if they don't do their job ethically and honestly.
  • Think about choosing a professional, such as a lawyer, accountant, or trust company, if you have a large or complicated estate.

Many people choose their spouse, family member, or friend to be their estate trustee. Talk to the person to make sure that they agree to be your estate trustee before naming them in your will.

Also think about choosing someone to be an alternate estate trustee, in case your first choice dies or is not able or willing to do the job after you die

You can name more than one person to act as estate trustee. If you do, it's a good idea to say how decisions about your estate should be made. For example, say if you want all the estate trustees to agree on every decision, or which one can decide if they don't agree. If the will does not say anything, then all estate trustees must agree before any decision is made.

Paying your estate trustee

Think about whether your estate trustee will be paid. Even if your estate trustee is a family member or friend who says they don't want to be paid, all estate trustees are legally allowed to charge a fee. If the amount is not in the will, the law says the fee is an amount that's "fair and reasonable".

The amount depends on what your estate is worth and how much work your estate trustee has to do. In general, this fee is:

  • 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.

Information for your estate trustee

Ontario doesn't have a central database of wills and you don't have to file your will with the court or government. So make sure your will is kept in a safe place. This could be in a desk at home, in a safety deposit box at your bank, or with your lawyer. Make sure your estate trustee knows where to find your will.

It’s also a good idea to tell your estate trustee where they can find a list of your property, including bank accounts, investments, and insurance policies, and passwords for things like online banking and social media accounts.

You May Also Need

Ontario Securities Commission
Ontario Securities Commission
Ontario Securities Commission
Reviewed: October 31, 2019

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