How Do I Choose the Right Person to Be the Liquidator of My Estate?

Published on February 5, 2024

When you make your will, you can appoint a liquidator. He or she will ensure that your last wishes are respected and that your heirs receive what is coming to them.

To whom will you entrust the responsibility of settling your estate? This is a question that requires some thought. Here are a few guidelines to help you make your decision…


Liquidator: role and responsibilities

The liquidator, previously known as the testamentary executor, is the person responsible for settling your estate after your death. You are under no obligation to appoint a liquidator, although it is recommended that you do so.


The liquidator's duties are as follows:

  • Close your accounts.
  • Search for the will and have it probated, if necessary.
  • Make an inventory of your assets and debts.
  • Publish a notice of inventory closing in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights (RDPRM) as well as in your municipality's newspaper.
  • Collect any amounts owing to you.
  • Pay the estate's debts.
  • File your income tax returns and pay your taxes, if any.
  • Determine who is entitled to inherit.
  • Distribute assets to heirs after debts and taxes have been paid.

The liquidator's powers are limited to those described in your will. If you don’t make any specific requests, the liquidator will be responsible for administering the estate's assets until they are handed over to your heirs.

Only in certain specific cases will the liquidator be able to sell your assets. For example, if the assets are perishable or losing value, or if all the heirs agree to their sale.


The qualities of a good liquidator

Of course, the person you appoint as liquidator must have your full confidence. But other qualities are equally important. To help you decide, here are a few personality traits to keep in mind. Look for someone who is...

  • Impartial. The liquidator may have to deal with certain family dynamics. That's why they must be fair to all concerned, whatever his or her relationship with them. Nor should he or she be susceptible to being influenced in any way.
  • Diplomatic. Your will is drawn up according to your own wishes, and sometimes these are not to everyone's liking. Your liquidator may have to take actions that will displease a liquidator.
  • Patient. Settling an estate can be a long and arduous process. The person you choose will need to be patient and dedicated to the task of bringing the settlement to a successful conclusion.
  • Knowledgeable. To ensure that the liquidation goes smoothly, your liquidator will have to manage sometimes complex situations. Choose someone who can demonstrate common decisions sense, even in the most difficult of times.


Choosing your liquidator: more than a question of trust

Even if a person possesses all these qualities, that doesn't mean he or she is necessarily the one you should appoint as your liquidator. There are other variables to consider when making your choice:

  • Age. First of all, a liquidator must be of legal age. Besides, a person who is too young may lack experience or maturity. A person who is too old, on the other hand, may not have the energy to complete the task.
  • Place of residence. Ideally, choose someone who lives in the same municipality as you, or at least nearby. This will make the task easier. Avoid choosing someone who is not a Canadian resident, as this status can create tax problems when it comes time to settle the estate.
  • Knowledge. A person who knows even a little about finance, taxes, estate law or taxation will find it easier to take on the role of testamentary liquidator. Even if it's not his or her field of expertise, he or she will know who to approach for help.


Multiple liquidators and professional support

A liquidator has many responsibilities, and these can be heavy to bear. So if you have a number of suitably qualified people around you, why not appoint more than one liquidator?

In fact, you can include more than one liquidator right in your will. You could also indicate who is responsible for what, and how decisions will be made. In this case, it's advisable to choose people who know each other, get along well and live nearby.

If you don't want to impose this responsibility on someone close to you, you can hire a professional liquidator, such as a notary, accountant or lawyer. The liquidator's fees will be paid out of your estate. The liquidator may act as sole liquidator, or as co-liquidator with a family member.

Lastly, an "amateur" liquidator can always call on the services of a professional to help him or her settle the estate, even if the latter was not named as one of the liquidators in your will.


An important choice, but not a final one

Did you choose a liquidator when you drew up the first version of your will, but now that person no longer seems right for the job? Don't worry: you can always change your liquidator.

It's a good idea to reread your will every 3 years. Not only will this ensure that everything in it is up-to-date and still relevant, it will also give you the opportunity to revisit your wishes and, if necessary, appoint a liquidator more suited to your current situation.

Note that a liquidator may resign at any stage of the liquidation, unless he or she is the sole heir. If he or she is named in the will, however, the resignation procedure detailed therein must be followed.

You should also be aware that the person you choose is not obliged to accept the responsibility of liquidator. If he or she refuses, and you have made no provision for a replacement, your heirs will have to agree to appoint one. In this case, it will be up to the courts to decide.


A responsibility that must be accepted

Discovering that you have to take on the role of liquidator after the death of a loved one is a stress you probably don't want to put your loved ones through. That's why it's imperative to share your thoughts with the person you choose as liquidator.

Make sure that the liquidator you include in your will is aware of what this role entails and that he or she is willing to take it on.

We hope these tips will help you make an informed choice for a worry-free estate.






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