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What is an estate trustee and what are his or her obligations?

In previous posts, we've discussed why it is important to have a will, and some of the issues that might arise if you die without one. We also looked at some of the things that need to be considered when contemplating your will, or testament. You can review those considerations here. One of those considerations asked you to consider who you wanted to administer your estate. The administrator, or "Estate Trustee" considerations are further elaborated in this post.

Estate Trustee

An estate Trustee, often referred to as the executor or administrator, is the individual or individuals named in a will to carry out the wishes of the deceased person, the testator. Your estate trustee should be someone you trust. They should be someone you know will act in your best interests. A trustee should have the skills, ability and desire to carry out the instructions set out in your will. 

Responsibility

An estate trustee has the obligation of ensuring that the wishes of the testator, as described by the terms of the will, are carried out to the fullest extent possible and to account to the beneficiaries of the estate. An estate trustee has the responsibility to administer the entirety of the estate of the deceased person, this will include filing any tax returns on behalf of the estate, making sure that all of the assets of the estate are accounted for and ensuring that all of the beneficiaries named in the will receive their bequests. An estate trustee is also obligated to ensure that he or she carries out the terms of any trusts that may be contained in the will, for minor children, or spouses, for example.

Compensation

An estate trustee may receive compensation for his or her services, but the amount of such compensation will be based on the complexity of the will, the time, skill and energy required to administer the estate and the increase, if any, in the assets of the estate brought on by the diligence of the trustee in carrying out the terms of the will. Sometimes, the testator will provide for compensation directly to the trustee in the will. If this has not been done, the trustee may seek compensation from the estate, based on a formula approved by the courts and based on the items I have described.

Consulting with Trustee

We recommend that you consult with the individual or individuals whom you would like to name as your estate trustee, prior to doing so. This will allow you to address any concerns the potential trustee has about what is expected of them in the event of your death, and for you to clearly explain your intentions as contained in your will. This is especially important because estate trustees have a wide latitude to act within their own discretion when carrying out the terms of your will.

No Requirement

If you do not consult with the person to whom you would like to name as estate trustee in your will, you run the risk of that person declining to act when the time comes. There is no legal requirement that a person named in a will as estate trustee agree to act as such. If you have not addressed the issues discussed here with your named estate trustee prior to executing your will, you run the risk that potentially a person or persons whom you do not trust, or may not even know, will be given the responsibility of carrying out the affairs of your estate.
Should you have any questions please do not hesitate us. For additional information on estates in general, and access to some FAQs, please visit the Ministry of the Attorney General's Estates FAQ page.
Remember:Everyone's situation and experiences are unique. The blogs posted on this site are informational. They are not intended to be taken as legal advice for any particular situation. It is always a good idea to seek professional legal advice before making any decisions related to your particular case.
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