Don’t let a stranger handle your estate!

What happens if your Executor dies? Did you know it’s possible for a stranger to end up handling your estate?

You’re probably thinking, “That can’t happen – I have a Will!”

If the person you named in your Will to handle your estate (called your “Executor”) dies and you haven’t appointed a backup, your Executor’s Executor also becomes the Executor of your estate through something called the “chain of executorship”. You might not even know that person but that doesn’t matter under the law. That means a total stranger could end up handling your estate.

That won’t be the case if your Executor did not have a Will, but your family will then have to go through the cost and trouble of applying for a Grant of Administration to ask the Court to appoint someone to handle your estate. The person appointed by the Court might not be the person you would have chosen.

A proper Will should address this possibility by naming an alternate Executor (i.e., a backup). The alternate would take over as the Executor if the first Executor were to pass away. There is a good chance you do not have an alternate Executor named if you prepared your Will yourself with a DIY Will kit or an online Will generator (pro tip: always use an estate lawyer!).  If you have named someone significantly older than you (e.g., a parent) to act as your Executor, either as first choice or the backup, you should consider what might happen if that Executor dies while handling your estate.

The bottom line is that you should name an alternate Executor to take over if your first Executor dies, becomes incapacitated, or does not wish to continue to act. If one of your chosen Executors dies while you are alive, make sure to update your Will.