If you are named as an executor of a will, do you have to act?
The answer is no. In British Columbia, you may renounce by signing a renunciation.
Acting as an executor is a lot of work. If you make a mistake, you can be sued by a beneficiary or creditor of the estate.
There are many reasons you might renounce as an executor. These include:
1. The estate is insolvent. If there is more money owing to creditors than assets in the estate, the administration may be more complicated and burdensome than a solvent estate. Creditors may demand payment and start lawsuits. The law sets out priorities for different types of creditors, and you must follow them.
2. You have a claim against the estate. It would then be a conflict of interest for you to act as the executor.
3. There may be disputes among the beneficiaries or the deceased’s family. You might not want to get in the middle of a family dispute, especially if it turns into a lawsuit.
4. Some of the beneficiaries are hostile toward you, or just difficult to deal with.
5. You don’t have the time to administer the estate.
You don’t have to provide a reason for not acting. You can renounce simply because you do not want to act.
It is important to renounce before you have intermeddled in the estate. If you have dealt with the estate assets, you may have intermeddled. It is a good idea to renounce right away.
Once you have renounced, you cannot later become the executor. For example, if you renounce so that the alternate executor named in the will can act, you cannot later administer the estate if the alternate is unable to complete the estate administration.
What happens after you renounce? If there is an alternate executor appointed in the will, the alternate can apply to probate the will. If there is no alternate to you named in the will, or the alternate is unable or unwilling to act, then someone else can apply to court to be appointed the administrator. The court can then grant letters of administration with will annexed.