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Part 2- Executors vs. Estate Administrators: Understanding the Key Differences

In the realm of estate planning, two essential roles emerge when it comes to administering an individual’s affairs after their passing: the executor and the estate administrator. It’s vital to grasp the distinctions between these roles, as they play a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth transition of assets and the fulfillment of the deceased’s wishes. In this blog post, we will explore the fundamental differences between an executor, appointed by a will, and an estate administrator for an intestate estate.

Executor: Appointed by a Will

When discussing estate administration, many people colloquially refer to the term “executor.” However, it’s crucial to note that the term “executor” specifically pertains to an individual who has been nominated in a will to oversee the distribution of the deceased’s assets. The will itself bestows the power upon the executor, enabling them to act immediately upon the testator’s passing. 

Choosing an Executor: A Serious Decision

Selecting an executor should not be taken lightly. While some may view it as an honor to be named an executor, it’s essential to recognize that this role carries significant responsibilities. When naming an executor, rather than focusing solely on who would feel honored by the appointment, it’s advisable to assess who you feel is trustworthy and will administer your estate fairly. . Executors are responsible for handling sensitive financial and legal matters, and their trustworthiness is paramount. Many of Canada’s mainline banks have related companies that offer executor services for a fee. Such an arrangement may be appropriate for complicated estates or where you have limited to no other options.

Are Single or Multiple Executors Appropriate?

When crafting your will, a crucial decision to ponder is whether it’s advisable to appoint a single executor or opt for multiple executors. Nominating a single executor can streamline the logistics of estate administration, potentially making the process more straightforward. However, you might also weigh the benefits of having multiple executors, which can introduce an additional layer of checks and balances that your estate is administered in accordance with your wishes. If you do opt for multiple executors, your will should explicitly outline how decisions are to be made, whether by majority vote, unanimously, or if one person holds ultimate veto power. Without such specific provisions, unanimous agreement among multiple executors is required for all decisions. This can lead to delays, disputes, and potential infighting, resulting in unnecessary legal expenses for the estate.

Estate Administrator Without a Will: Ontario’s Estate’s Act

If an individual passes away intestate (without a will) or the appointed executor is unwilling or unable to fulfill their duties, Ontario’s Estate’s Act steps in to designate an order of priority for potential estate administrators. The process typically necessitates the person applying to acquire renunciations and consents from anyone else entitled to apply. In cases where potential estate administrators can not agree who should be appointed, this process can become complex and costly, potentially eroding estate assets.

Why Executors can be Beneficial

Moreover, aside from the certainty that comes with naming an executor in a will, there are significant financial benefits that may be leveraged naming an executor. Executors derive their authority to administer estate assets directly from the will, rather than from the Court. Understanding this seemingly subtle distinction is pivotal because it highlights that probate is not required for all estate assets. Although a Certificate of Appointment may be legally necessary for dealing with certain assets, such as real property, and while some financial institutions may mandate it based on their policies, there are ways to reduce Estate Administration Taxes. Some of these strategies are rooted in an executor’s ability to administer estate assets outside the probate process, allowing for efficient tax planning and ensuring that the maximum value of your estate passes to your beneficiaries. We will delve further into these strategies in our blog “Strategies for Reducing Estate Administration Taxes and Deemed Disposition.”


Understanding the distinctions between an executor appointed by a will and an estate administrator for an intestate estate is crucial for effective estate planning. Careful consideration when choosing an executor and providing clear instructions in your will can help prevent complications and disputes during estate administration. Conversely, dying intestate or without a willing and able executor can lead to a more complex and costly process under Ontario’s regulations. 

It is advisable to seek professional guidance and ensure that your estate plan aligns with your wishes and the best interests of your beneficiaries. At Pavey Law, we not only possess the requisite experience to assist in estate planning but also provide invaluable assistance in the administration of estates, whether or not there is a will in place. Stay tuned for more insightful estate planning tips in our upcoming blogs or contact our team of professionals today to discuss you estate plan.