Q. I am a longtime widow, single with no children, and wondering who should be the executor of my will. I have an older sister who, like me, lives in British Columbia, and her two children are involved with their own family responsibilities. Our younger brother lives in the United States with a spouse and no children. I’ve broached the subject with friends, but they don’t want to be executors because it is a lot of responsibility and work. I can understand this.
Are there services in Canada that provide this service for childless, spouseless people like me? (What I like to call “elder orphans.”) I am leaning toward asking a trust company, but it feels so impersonal. How does one even begin to sit with them and create a will? Can they also perform the duties of power of attorney? And, what about advanced care directives or representation agreements? I want to get my affairs in order but I don’t know where to turn. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
A. Juliana, what you are looking for is someone to serve as your estate executor. Trust companies can offer simple solutions for your needs. You can shop and compare trust companies’ fee quotes and services. They do not prepare the legal documents, but will refer you to outside lawyers for this purpose.
Typically, estate planning documents include wills and powers of attorney for your property and personal care decisions. British Columbia also uses representation agreements. Trust companies are usually not involved in personal or health care decisions, and they are likely to recommend that substitute decision making authority be given to family members. You may be able to guide your substitute decision maker with specific care wishes. (Please note that I am not a licensed British Columbia lawyer, and this information is not legal advice.)
Another option may be to speak to local independent lawyers directly, as some lawyers also act as executors and attorneys. They can also confirm how and when they are to be paid for their services. Lawyers may offer competitive rates similar to trust companies’ terms. Ensure you name back-up executors in your will in case your first choice cannot act. This is where trust companies may be suitable as backup executors.
Lawyers can simplify matters so that your family or friends become more comfortable with serving as your executor. For example, you can include terms in your documents that protect family from any unnecessary risk or liability, and your will can specify that your executor may hire agents to assist them at your estate’s expense.
Ed Olkovich is a Toronto lawyer and certified specialist in Estate and Trusts Law.
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