Suggestions for choosing an executor/power of attorney in Ontario
July 23, 2023 10:38 AM   Subscribe

We're old. All our friends are old. Our lawyer is old. No close young nieces or nephews. Both our sons live thousands of miles away. Word of mouth is not working. We need suggestions on how to go about finding an executor and someone to give power attorney to.

Until very recently, one son lived with us and he was our executor. Now he lives in England and the other lives in Los Angeles. I can see giving joint executor etc. status to one or both of them, but it will be difficult for them to do the heavy lifting from far away.
I think I want a general direction here, categories of persons, professions, etc. Definitely not specific names or firms.
Thanks in advance.
posted by feelinggood to Law & Government (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Make it your sons. They're going to have to step up when the moment arrives. (This is one of the hard things about end-of-life issues.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:48 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]

I am co-executor and co-trustee, with my brother, of my parents' estate. We live across the country from each other, and neither of us lives where my parents lived. This is in the U.S. and I'm not sure how things are different in Canada, but I continue to be shocked at the number of things that require both of our physical signatures on the same piece of paper. In 2023! After a global pandemic where so many things shifted online! Every time we have to take care of one of these things, one or both of us has to buy a plane ticket. My parents had a more complicated estate than most, but we are still regularly having to be in the same place at the same time to get things done, and it looks like that will continue for at least another year, which will be about 2 years after the last parent died. That's not even counting the hospital issues and health care decisions leading up to the end, which would not have gone nearly as well without at least one of us being present.

I'm sorry not to have very much specific (or location-specific) advice for you, but I would seriously consider what's going to happen if you give your children joint powers. Definitely talk to them about it and let them know what you are planning.

One person who really helped us was the case manager for the home care agency. She knew all the hospitals and skilled nursing facilities and hospice providers, and had lots of good advice. And she was able to schedule aides to sit with my parent in the hospital when neither my brother nor I were available.

If you have any union, government, military, or religious affiliations, definitely check out what kinds of services they can offer or connect you with. Even if you aren't religious, there are plenty of agencies like Jewish Family Services who serve everybody. If you are working with a lawyer or financial planner already, they should be able to help you. And if you've been banking at the same place for a while, ask your bank or credit union.

Finally, cultivate community with your friends and neighbors. They will be able to do things like keep an eye on your home and notice if something's leaking.
posted by expialidocious at 4:20 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]

My sister in California was co-executor of an estate in Missouri, and she didn't have to travel at all, so expialidocious' experience isn't universal. I'd suggest checking with a local attorney to find out just how difficult it would be for someone to manage your estate long distance. That appears to be something that's going to vary by jurisdiction (if that's the right word for Canada).

At least in the US, there have been a number of horror stories of people with businesses to take care of these things that were totally predatory, even getting elderly people declared incompetent so they can sell all of their possessions. I expect your sons would prefer doing the extra work themselves to having someone take advantage of you. I would not give power of attorney to a stranger. Rather, I'd focus on doing everything you can in advance, including some serious downsizing if you haven't done that already, to make it as easy on your sons as possible. A decent estate attorney could help you with other ideas, e.g., if you own real estate, would it be better to change to joint ownership?
posted by FencingGal at 6:09 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]

Not to disregard expialidocios’ experiences but there are plenty of ways of getting wet signatures on documents that don’t require the signatories to be in the same place. It may be a bit cumbersome/ require witnesses/notarisation and/or couriers but should not require travel in most circumstances. You may come up against what people are used to doing vs what is possible and may need to push a bit but it should not be impossible for your children to do this from afar for the most part. I am executor of two wills in England. I’ve not lived in England for more than a decade. Having said that, you should absolutely simplify things as much as possible also to make it easier on yourselves. Simple will help allow you to be as independent as possible for as long as possible.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:06 PM on July 23

Just wanted to add the executor can pay a lawyer to much of the actual work. It might also be a good time to hire a virtual assistant who track down the details like researching real estate agents, how to get refunds from the utility companies etc. Having someone who can tell the executor "fill out this form and mail to this address with a copy of the death certificate" is way easier than having to figure out which form and where to mail it on your own. (I acted as the assistant to my husband when he was executor for his mother's estate.)

In terms of financial powers while you are still alive, two things really helped in my mother-in-law's last years. First, after her husband died, we simplified her finances so she had one checking account, two credit cards and a single account with her broker that held all of her financial assets. (Trying to track everything down when her husband died a few years earlier was tricky - we would find a stock certificate in the filing cabinet and couldn't tell if it was still worth anything or not.)

Having a broker that she trusted made it easier for us to coordinate with him when she was no longer able to do so. Mostly we agreed to what he suggested but we felt better knowing someone was watching out for her interests and making sure that his suggestions made sense)

Second, we had on-line accounts for her checking account and credit cards and used on-line bill pay for almost everything. This meant that I could see and pay her credit card balances for her without having to do through any complicated power of attorney maneuvers (just made the sure the rest of the family knew what was going on so nobody would get upset).

One thing that can help with this is use a password manager like 1Password with safe cloud storage. You can set up a family account with shared vaults where you can easily give your kid joint access to certain passwords if/when you are ready and have the master password available in a secure way (ours is locked in fire safe in our basement - kid will have to visit to get it) that will make it much easier for the kid manage things when you are no longer able.
posted by metahawk at 9:58 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]

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