Most Canadians have heard the term executor; it is synonymous with the Quebec term liquidator. But many remain unclear as to the exact responsibilities and limitations of a liquidator.
Simply put, the liquidator handles a deceased person’s estate. The liquidator has to manage bank accounts and assets, distribute these to the deceased’s heirs, and file taxes. Depending on the complexity of the assets, the role may entail a lot of work, and there are significant legal obligations placed on the liquidator including the potential responsibility for the debts of the deceased.
Who should I choose as my liquidator?
This is a deeply personal choice but it is wise to remember that a will gives power to explicitly define what is desired from the liquidator(s). With very few exceptions, a liquidator can’t take an action not specified in the will.
However, liquidators are required by law to act in the best interests of the heirs. This is why they can sometimes do more than the will permits. For example, if your summer cottage is costing too much to maintain and your heirs don’t want it, the liquidator may be able to sell it even if will does not grant them the power to take this action.
A liquidator must be an adult who is not under protective supervision, and does not necessarily have to be a relative.
The notary who prepared the will may be named a liquidator if they offer that service free of charge. Many professional liquidator services are also available. Multiple liquidators, a popular choice, can be named. This enables choosing individuals based on their strengths, while still ensuring professional guidance. For example, a relative could be named the liquidator in charge of organizing a memorial service, but a named hired professional would be in charge of finances.
In the absence of a will, or in cases where the will does not name a liquidator, that role defaults to all of the heirs.
What if my liquidator says no?
No one is ever obligated to accept being a liquidator, unless they are a sole heir and no other liquidator has been specified in which case the choice is removed. For this reason, alternate liquidators should always be named in a will. This can save time and much headache during an acutely painful and stressful time. If all named liquidators refuse, then the role is automatically assigned to the heirs.