Designating an Executor for Your Estate

Written by

Amy Liebaert

Designating an Executor for Your Estate: Who to Choose

Discussing the inevitable is a topic we most often avoid. Nevertheless, it is essential to have end-of-life conversations, especially about the designation of an executor. Organizing your estate ahead of time ensures that the settlement process is completed efficiently and that your assets are distributed according to your final wishes. In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of choosing an executor, why it matters, and how to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Why are end-of-life conversations important?

Pre-planning for end-of-life, including the appointment of an executor, can help ease the burden on your surviving family members in their time of grief. According to our research, it takes an average of 320 hours to complete estate settlement but may take years depending on estate complexity. This is why discussing your wishes with your loved ones and designating an executor is essential.

What is an executor? 

An executor is an individual designated to administer the estate and carry out all corresponding duties. They have authority over all documents in the name of the deceased and are responsible for all communication with court, settling debts, distributing assets, and closing accounts (O’Brien, 2021). Without a will or designated executor, the estate will be sent to probate and the court will be given authority over all assets as well as their distribution (O’Brien, 2021). This process will extend the already lengthy process. Appointing an appropriate executor can help maintain a timely process for asset distribution and reduce conflict between beneficiaries.

Tips for designating an executor

Who should you choose?

Choosing an executor for your estate is a crucial decision that requires careful consideration. While it's common for individuals to select a loved one as their executor, there are instances where hiring a professional from the financial or legal sector may be a more suitable choice (Hodder, 2023 & RBC Wealth Management, n.d.). This is especially applicable if the estate is complex or if there are complicated family dynamics involved. Typically, selecting an executor who is also a beneficiary can help ensure a vested interest in the well-being and timeliness of the estate settlement process (Hodder, 2023). Due to the lengthy nature of this  process, selecting an individual with the ability to set aside a significant amount of time for executor duties is a necessity (RBC Wealth Management, n.d.).

When selecting an executor, certain characteristics should be taken into account. The ideal candidate should be organized, detail-oriented, trustworthy, timely, and a good communicator (O’Brien, 2021, Hodder, 2023). They should also have their own affairs in order, showing a responsibility and understanding for finances (RBC Wealth Management, n.d.). These qualities are vital as the executor will be responsible for handling financial matters, meeting timelines, and discussing asset details with beneficiaries.

What if they say no?

Before designating an executor, it's essential to communicate your wishes to the chosen individual. Discussing your intentions in advance allows an appointed executor to understand the responsibilities involved and gives them the opportunity to decline if they feel they cannot fulfill the role effectively (O’Brien, 2021). Open and honest communication is key to ensuring that both parties are on the same page and have a clear understanding of expectations.

It is also wise to name a contingent executor in your estate plan. By appointing an alternate executor, you ensure that there is someone ready to step in and fulfill the role if the primary executor is unable or unwilling to do so (O’Brien, 2021). This provides an added layer of security and ensures that your estate will be managed according to your wishes, regardless of any unforeseen circumstances.

Should you have more than one executor?

While co-executors might seem like a practical solution, it is not always advisable (O’Brien, 2021 & RBC Wealth Management, n.d.). Co-executors are often required to sign documents together and may face challenges when trying to work independently on specific tasks (Hodder, 2023). If you choose co-executors, it's crucial that they can effectively collaborate without conflict arising, ensuring a smooth administration of the estate.

Is the executor’s location important?

Geographical proximity is another factor to consider when selecting an executor. Ideally, the appointed executor should not be distantly located from the deceased's estate (RBC Wealth Management, n.d.). The executor may need to travel to the location of the estate to gather information, distribute assets, and meet with local parties involved. Having an executor in close proximity can expedite the process and minimize logistical complications.

Can you make changes?

Reassessing your choice of executor periodically can determine if your choice is still beneficial as times change. Life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or the passing of loved ones can significantly impact your estate plan. It's recommended to review your plan every 3-5 years or whenever a major life change occurs (O’Brien, 2021). This allows you to make any necessary adjustments and ensure that your chosen executor is still the most suitable candidate to carry out your wishes.

How can Cadence help?

At Cadence, we understand the immense responsibility of administering an estate. That's why we offer the Executor Assistant, a tool that streamlines the settlement process through a personalized checklist and certified support for executors every step of the way. With autofill features and built-in timelines, executors can fulfill their duties with ease. Grief is hard enough, and we want our clients to have peace of mind knowing their wishes will be fulfilled through a streamlined process.


Choosing an executor is a critical part of the estate planning process. It is essential to have an open conversation with your loved ones and consult with a professional to ensure your wishes are carried out after you've passed on. When designating an executor, remember to consider their characteristics, verify that they're willing to take on the role, and name a contingency executor in case your first choice is no longer able. Preparing early on for end-of-life tasks will help provide your loved ones with the time and space to manage their grief while balancing executor responsibilities without worry. 

Refer to the checklist below for a summarized guide to choosing an executor:

  1. Consider location: is your chosen executor within proximity to the estate?  
  2. Assess characteristics (i.e., organization, communication, timeliness, etc.): can your chosen executor plan, complete, and submit estate settlement related tasks reliability?
  3. Clearly explain the role: have you and your chosen executor had clear and honest conversations about your final wishes and what to expect during the estate settlement process? 
  4. Appoint a contingent executor: have you chosen and spoken to your contingent executor about what they should expect to happen in the case of your passing? 
  5. Reassess your estate plan and executor every 3-5 years: do you have a reminder set for yourself?

Cadence is here to help! If you would like assistance through the pre-planning journey, or need assistance with the executor role, book a free consultation with a Cadence representative and experience an unmatched level of support.

Hodder, C. (2023, April 27). How To Choose an Executor For Your Will. FindLaw. O’Brien, S. (2021, June 15). Here’s how to decide who’s a good fit for executor of your will. CNBC. RBC Wealth Management. (n.d.). Choosing an executor: Four characteristics to watch for. Retrieved August 15, 2023, from