What do I do if I don’t want to be an executor?

The question that arises occasionally from clients is: Can you turn down the role of an executor if you are named one? 

Why turn it down? You may not want to be the executor due to family conflict, or the job may be too much for you. So, can you turn the role down? 

The simple answer is yes.  

You can refuse the role before you act. Or, if you have started and have second thoughts, you may be able to resign. This can be complicated, so you would have to review it with your lawyer immediately.

If the job is too much for you, you could outsource the role and hire a Trust company to handle the role. Again, you would have to review with your lawyer.

For further information see the below excerpts from the book – Preserving Wealth – written by Jack Lumsden, MBA, CFP® 

Could a person turn down the job, even if they’ve been named executor in a will?”

“Yes, you can,” Uncle Wayne told us, “but in many cases, a family feud won’t start until after the mother or father dies. There may be jealousy over the terms of the will, or someone may go into a parent’s house and cart away the personal items of greatest value, whether financial or sentimental. It’s not unusual for disputes like that to crop up. A lot of people react strangely to the idea of getting money, or not getting money that they believe is rightfully theirs. I’ve seen this happen first-hand with some of my friends’ children. If kids don’t get along when the parents are alive, they normally won’t get along any better when the parents are gone. There’s a reason they’re called adult children.

“If an executor is worried about the job because of family conflicts, or it’s too big of a job for them to handle, they could outsource the role and hire a Trust company to assist with the duties. This would add a layer of protection for the executor. If an executor is really, really worried, they could refuse the position before they begin to act, or if they have started to act and have second thoughts, they could resign. This is complicated, so you’d have to review with their lawyer immediately.

“If the beneficiaries are concerned about what the executor has done, they can approach the courts for a procedure called ‘passing of accounts,’ where the executor can be required to provide a full accounting of all the transactions that have taken place. As a last step, if the beneficiaries believe that the executor is not doing the job properly, they can approach the courts to have the executor replaced. This can be costly and requires a great deal of evidence; however, any costs could be recoverable if they win. As Sally mentioned wisely, ongoing communication is required to hopefully avoid conflicts.”

“That sounds like a real mess, Uncle Wayne. I’m glad you all get along most of the time. I’m going to be the executor of my mom’s will, many years from now, knock wood,” Mark said. “As her only child, I don’t exactly expect a family feud, but I’d like to know what my primary duties will be. Could you sum­marize them?”

“Sure thing. Basically, here’s what you’ve got to do:

  1. Locate and review the will.
  2. Notify the beneficiaries and provide them a copy of the will.
  3. Plan the funeral.
  4. Become familiar with the assets of the estate.
  5. Protect the estate by making sure the assets, including home, cars, and cottage, are still insured.
    • Notify all the insurance companies and obtain a vacancy permit (insurance for vacant property), as insurance on a vacant property may terminate after a specific number of days,
    • Arrange property checks as required in the policies on vacant property to keep insurance in effect.
  6. Obtain help from lawyers and accountants.
  7. Locate all the assets and ensure they are properly valued and/or appraised as required (for the Estate Information Review in Ontario).
  8. Turn off the access to all online accounts to prevent identity theft.
  9. Meet with the family to discuss the terms of the will.
  10. Have the will probated.
  11.  Pay all creditors.
  12.  Keep good records.
  13.  Settle all taxes.
  14.  Distribute the assets according to the terms of the will.”


For more information, you can refer to Preserving Wealth: The Next Generation – The definitive guide to protecting, investing, and transferring wealth by Jack Lumsden, MBA, CFP®


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Jack Lumsden, MBA, CFP®   Financial Advisor, Assante Financial Management Ltd.

This material is provided for general information and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources however no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the above, please make sure to see me for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances. The information provided is for illustrative purposes only. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses, may all be associated with mutual fund investments. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. Please read the Fund Facts and consult your Assante Advisor before investing.

Insurance products are services provided through Assante Estate and Insurance Services Inc.

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