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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Can I hire a co-executor?

A question I received recently from a reader was "how do I hire a co-executor?" I took this to mean that the reader is acting as the executor on an estate and wants to hire someone to help him. The short answer to the question is that you can't hire a co-executor, but that doesn't mean that the executor can't hire some help.

The reason that an executor can't hire a "co-executor" is that the executor was chosen by the testator when the Will was made. Only those named in the Will can act as executors. An exception to this (there's always an exception, isn't there?) exists where a Will states that there always has to be a certain number of executors and if one dies or can't be an executor any more, the executors can name a replacement. This is relatively rare though.

If the reader who asked this question wants some help dealing with the estate, his best bet is to hire a trust company to act as his agent. This means that he is still the only executor and retains the rights and responsibilities of the executor, but there is someone else to do the leg work. In a situation like this, the trust company would take care of the sale of property, notifications, hiring a lawyer to apply for probate, pay the bills, arrange for tax returns to be done, etc. In other words, the trust company does everything that an executor would do, but the executor retains final say.

See my list of executor's duties here.

I've met a number of executors who want this kind of help because they are overwhelmed with the work it takes when they've already got a job and a family to take care of. Some executors want to delegate the work simply because the family situation is volatile and they want a neutral third party to take care of things.

Canada's major banks (Scotia, Royal, TD, BMO, CIBC, HSBC) have trust companies attached to them. You can get access to them either by finding their web page or by asking the staff in the branch where you bank to put you in touch with someone. You don't have to be a customer of a bank to use its trust company.

If the executor only wants help with certain tasks, he is entitled to hire professionals to help him. For example, he can hire a lawyer to apply for probate, a realtor to sell a house and an accountant to prepare tax returns. He might also hire a cleaning company to clean out a house, an auctioneer to sell household assets or a business broker to sell  a company. These days, most Wills specifically state that an executor can hire agents like this and pay them out of the estate, but this is permissible in any event.


  1. A trust company (Bank) was listed as co-executor with my Aunt but she passed away 18 years ago, leaving them as sole executor. All of the assets are with another bank. We, the beneficiaries would like the assets to stay in the bank they're in, but the trust company wants to move them to their bank. I thought all they had to do was add their name to the existing account for signing purposes and feel that the only reason they want to move the assets is so that their bank can profit. Can we fight them on this, making them leave the assets where they are?


    1. Is that what you think an executor is for? Adding their name for signing purposes? Surely you don't think your relative agreed to pay a trust company a percentage of her estate just for that.

      One of the main advantages of using a trust company as an executor is that they have in-house expertise including investment experience. Yes, their bank will profit, there's no question about that, but as long as the estate is also profiting, that shouldn't matter to you.

      As beneficiaries, you don't have a say in where the executor holds the funds. If the executor was doing something really foolish such as gambling with it, then sure you could ask the court to put a stop to it. Is there any material difference between the bank they want to use and the one you want to use? If not, I don't see that you'd have much success in trying to get a court to tell them to leave the accounts there.



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