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Common Questions

I am the executor of my mother's will and am doing the work myself

Last reviewed in October 2020 by Clicklaw Editors

An executor is the person named in a will to carry out the instructions contained in the will. The executor is responsible for settling the person's affairs after death. The person's estate (everything he or she owned) passes temporarily to the executor. In general, the executor gathers up the estate assets, pays the funeral costs, debts and taxes, and then distributes what remains of the estate to the beneficiaries in the will.

If you are the executor of a will, good starting points include:

  • Dealing with an Estate, from People's Law School, provides practical, step-by-step information about what you need to know when dealing with an estate.
  • Your Duties as Executor, from People's Law School, provides an overview of what is involved in being an executor and the steps in the process. You can listen to the page by visiting their Dial-A-Law website, or on the telephone by calling 1-800-565-5297 (604-687-4680 in the Lower Mainland).
  • Being an Executor, from People's Law School, outlines what is involved in being an executor and the steps you take as an executor. It provides answers to such questions as: Do I have to act as executor? Does an executor get paid? What do I do first? This booklet is available for download in multiple formats at the Clicklaw Wikibooks site.
  • Estate Guide, from Heritage Trust, provides help in understanding the steps involved in being an executor and probating a will. It includes detailed and practical information on dealing with assets, liabilities and beneficiaries.

Probate is a legal procedure that confirms the validity of the will and that you have the authority to act as executor. Be aware that you don't always have to apply for probate. It depends on the type of assets in the estate. Certain assets can be passed down without requiring probate - an example would be land owned in joint tenancy with another person.

The probate procedure includes submitting special forms and the will to the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court. See "I'm applying for probate; where can I find the forms required?" for more information on the documents required on a probate application.

Good starting points on probating a will include the above resources, as well as:

  • About Wills and Estates, from the provincial government, has basic information about what the Probate Registry does, and information about estates and the executor's role.
  • LSLAP Manual: Wills and Estates, from the UBC Law Students' Legal Advice Program, has a section on probating a will and distributing the estate.

Need more help?

  • If you have more questions or need further help, please see the Get Help services that are available via the Courthouse Libraries BC Wills Resources page.
  • Lawyer Referral Service, from Access Pro Bono, offers a free initial consultation with a lawyer for up to 30 minutes.
  • Find more help near you on Clicklaw HelpMap.

See our related common questions:

estates, executor, role of the executor, probate, probating a will