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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

If you're named as your Mom's executor, can you start taking over the finances while Mom is alive?

If you're named as the executor of your parent's will, what does that allow you to do while your parent is alive? Frankly, it doesn't let you do anything, but that doesn't seem to stop people. A reader asked me about this a while ago. Here is her question and my comments:

"I have two sisters who are the executors to my moms estate. If my mom is still alive can she make decisions about her investments that can override the executors if she feels her money is not being invested wisely?"

There is a surprisingly common misconception among people, but among executors in particular, that being named executor in a will gives them some immediate authority over an estate. This is completely incorrect. If your mother is still alive, your two sisters have absolutely zero say in how your mother handles any of her finances or property.

A will appoints someone to do a job after the testator (in this case, your mother) has passed away. It gives no legal authority to do anything whatsoever while the testator is still alive.

It seems to me that those two executors are just a little too eager to do things their way. I know if I were your Mom, I'd consider changing my executors simply because these two are more interested in getting their own way than doing what Mom wants. It seems to me that if you're arguing with your own executors, they just aren't the best choice.

I realize that sometimes parents need a bit of advice and sometimes a nudge in the right direction to do some planning around tax or investments. Some people can be really stubborn about things like keeping cash in the mattress. It's fair for any of the kids who believe they have identified an issue to raise it in a helpful way. However in this case it appears that your sisters are already making decisions against what your mother wants to do. They are treating your mother as if she is incompetent (it always drives me nuts when kids treat their aging parents this way), and rationalizing that behaviour by saying they are entitled because they are executors.

If your mother needs some help with her finances while she is alive, she should have an Enduring Power of Attorney prepared, naming someone to that job specifically. Until she does that, she is the only one with any authority to decide how her money is invested.


  1. Excellent.
    (it always drives me nuts when kids treat their aging parents this way) [LB]
    Sad indeed. They walk among us.

  2. I have had POWER OF ATTORNEY for mom since 1995 but as long as I thought she was okay I never took over her finances until 2008 discovering she was $88,000.00 in debt and letting my brother & his family rob her blind! I had them evicted from the cottage & paid off her debts. The money left over went to cover expensive medical needs, new car & legal bills. Still trying get rid of my brother who took all her property rights etc. I hope to keep fighting until I get the laws changed in Canada. If someone steals your TV police charge the culprit with theft. But if someone steals your property rights & rental income - police refuse saying its not a 'criminal' matter but civil. I say FOOEY & will fight to my death the get justice for seniors like mom.


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