Executor Responsibilities in Canadian Estate Management 0

Posted On April 11, 2024, by Tracey Bastedo

What are the responsibilities of an Executor of a will in Canada? Executors play a pivotal role in ensuring the fulfillment of the deceased’s wishes and the proper distribution of assets. In this article, we will delve into the various responsibilities of an executor, outlining key tasks and considerations.
Understanding the Role of an Executor
An executor is entrusted with the administration of the deceased’s estate, which is made up of assets, properties, and liabilities. The primary duty is to oversee the execution of the deceased’s will, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and the equitable distribution of assets among beneficiaries.

Initial Duties of an Executor
Before delving into the complex financial and legal intricacies of estate management, the executor’s journey begins with the critical initial duties. These foundational tasks set the stage for effective estate administration and ensure compliance with legal requirements:

  • Locate and authenticate the deceased’s will. In Ontario, the executor may sometimes need to obtain a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee, which both confirms the validity of the deceased’s will and grants the executor the authority to act on behalf of the estate.
  • Attend to funeral and burial arrangements, ensuring compliance with the deceased’s wishes.
  • Identify beneficiaries by mailing notices and copies of the will to all concerned parties, adhering to legal notice requirements.

Financial Responsibilities of an Executor
The executor shoulders significant financial responsibilities, including the management of debts, assets, and tax obligations. These financial responsibilities also include:

  • Asset and Liability Inventory:Prepare a comprehensive inventory of assets and liabilities, documenting all financial aspects of the estate. For estates that include properties and investments, this may require the services of professionals such as appraisers or real estate agents.
  • Settling Debts and Claims:Ensure all outstanding debts and claims against the estate are settled in a timely manner.
  • Completing Tax Returns:File tax returns for the deceased and the estate, including any required post-mortem tax planning.
  • Estate Accounting:Keep accurate records of all financial transactions and provide a detailed account of their activities to the beneficiaries and the court, if necessary.
  • Consider Hiring an Accountant:Engaging an accountant to assist with financial matters and tax returns is advisable, especially in complex financial scenarios such as those that include businesses, trusts, multiple properties or scenarios with international tax matters.


It is essential to recognize the potential personal liability associated with errors, emphasizing the importance of diligence and professional guidance.

Additional Responsibilities of an Executor

Once debts, taxes, and expenses are settled, the executor can then distribute the remaining assets according to the terms of the will, ensuring that inheritances are distributed fairly to the beneficiaries. In the process, the Executor must maintain open and transparent communication with beneficiaries, providing updates on estate progress and addressing their questions or concerns.

Business Responsibilities of an Executor

In cases where the deceased owned a business, the executor’s duties extend to managing business interests outlined in the will. Below are some key steps to follow:

  • Examine Business Documents:
    • Review incorporation documents, shareholder agreements, and other legal documents.
    • Understand key provisions related to business continuation, succession, and ownership.
  • Seek Professional Advice:
    • Consult with legal experts specializing in business law and estate planning.
    • Engage financial advisors and accountants for guidance on valuation and taxation.
  • Arrange for Valuation:
    • Hire qualified appraisers or valuation experts to assess business assets accurately.
    • Consider factors such as tangible assets, intellectual property, and potential liabilities.
  • Ensure Continuity of Business Operations:
    • Make interim management arrangements to maintain business operations.
    • Facilitate the sale of the business or oversee ongoing activities as outlined in the will.
  • Address Legal and Regulatory Obligations:
    • Fulfill contractual obligations and maintain necessary licenses and permits.
    • Ensure compliance with tax filing requirements and other regulatory obligations.
  • Navigate Complex Business Structures:
    • Manage ownership interests and resolve disputes among stakeholders.
    • Work closely with legal counsel to navigate complex business arrangements effectively.

Executor Compensation

Executors are entitled to compensation for their services, which could be based on a percentage of the estate value or an amount outlined in the will. Factors such as estate value, time invested, and the complexity of tasks might influence compensation amounts. This compensation is taxable as employment income and subject to withholding taxes.  The estate would be required to open a payroll account and file a T4 at the end of the year on compensation paid to the executor.


The role of an executor in Canadian estates is both intricate and indispensable. Executors bear significant responsibilities, ranging from legal and financial obligations to business management tasks.

While established frameworks guide their actions, complexities in estate administration necessitate professional expertise and diligent oversight.

As the landscape of estate administration evolves, executors must remain informed and proactive, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and the fulfillment of the deceased’s wishes. By upholding integrity, diligence, and professionalism, executors play a pivotal role in facilitating the orderly distribution of assets and honoring the legacies of those who have passed. Overall, the role of an executor is not only a legal duty but also a profound responsibility requiring compassion, competence, and meticulous attention to detail.

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This blog is not meant to provide specific advice or opinions regarding the topic(s)  discussed above. Should you have a question about your specific situation, please  discuss it with your GBA advisor.

GBA LLP is a full-service accounting firm in the Greater Toronto Area, but we primarily service all of Ontario as well as the rest of Canada virtually, except Quebec. Our team of over 30, provides Audits and Reviews of financial statements, and Compilations of  financial information, as well as corporate tax returns.  We provide specialized  corporate tax and succession planning for small and medium businesses, in addition to general advisory services.

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