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3 Things to Consider When Selecting an Estate Trustee

[fa icon="clock-o"] Dec 18, 2017 9:00:00 AM [fa icon="user"] The MacMillan Estate Planning Team [fa icon="folder-open'] Estate Planning, choosing an executor, estate plan, personalized estate plan, estate trustee, choosing estate trustee

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At MacMillan Estate Planning, we consider our lifelong work on your personalized estate planning to be more about designing your life and legacy than planning for your death. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some important conversations about your will and who you want to look after distributing your estate once you’re gone. Since this is a hugely important decision, we’ve taken the time to outline some considerations you should keep in mind.

This is a Business Decision. It’s easy for people to get emotional about choosing their estate trustee, other wise known as an executor. It feels like your final honour to bestow on the person whom you trust and appreciate most in the world. But sharing a wonderful friendship or child-parent relationship isn’t a great qualification for the job of organizing and distributing a complicated estate that spans beyond your home province into other countries. Your estate is a business. Your trustee needs to have a level head for accounting and running that business. Poor management will leave your estate vulnerable as debts aren't paid off and mistakes pile up.

How Many Trustees? Another question is how many trustees to include. The first recommendation we can give you is choose an odd number. This will prevent ties and ensure decisions keep being made, so the estate progresses. Many Canadians find 3 trustees to be a good number. It prevents too much power being consolidated in one person and allows ties to be broken easily. Choosing five or more trustees starts to bog down the process, and you can quickly end up having your estate trustees becoming an inefficient wheel of bureaucracy.

Balance Experience with Personal Insight. If you’re taking our advice on choosing three estate trustees, you may be wondering which 3 family members or friends fit the requirements. We have an alternative suggestion that you may want to consider. Only choose one your most trusted friends, partner, or children as one of your executors — spouses are a common choice. This person will be the expert on you, your intentions, and your legacy. For the other two trustees, name your personal estate advisors.

Your advisors have helped you craft your estate over the decades, and they know your plan as well as you do. They’ll have the legal experience and account expertise to help your spouse make all the best, informed decisions about the estate. And they’ll have records of your estate plan, so your spouse won’t waste time trying to find your final will.

Beyond their personal knowledge of your estate, your spouse will need the help of a lawyer and accountant anyways. By balancing their personal insight with the experience of estate experts, you’ll save your spouse from having to search out a lawyer on their own. Your estate advisors will also be experienced with probate and can help relieve much of the stress an executor often feels.

Choosing your estate trustees is a big decision. The expert estate planners at MacMillan are here to help. Contact us to schedule your free consultation, and get started on your personalized estate plan today!


At MacMillan Estate Planning, our team of professional trust and estate practitioners, chartered accountants, financial planners, and legal professionals look forward to assisting you with the design of your estate plan and will ensure you build, protect, and enjoy your wealth. The information provided is general and may not be suited to your objectives or sufficient to ensure the protection of you and your family. You should not act on this information without providing MacMillan Estate Planning with the opportunity to ensure that it is suitable for your unique situation.


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