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Executor Versus Administrator

An executor, versus administrator, is someone who has been appointed in a will to manage and distribute a deceased person’s estate. The executor, which can be an individual or corporation, is appointed by the person who has made the will, who is also known as the testator.

An estate administrator, versus executor, is appointed by the court. The administrator can also be an individual or corporation. The difference is that the administrator cannot start acting on behalf of the deceased person’s estate until the court issues a grant of administration. An executor, on the other hand, can begin acting immediately after the person dies because he or she is named in the will.

Typically, an administrator has the same powers as an executor. That means that either can act as if they were in the shoes of the deceased person, with all the same powers as the deceased when it comes to managing the deceased’s property.

How Do You Know if You Need an Executor Or an Administrator?

If someone has been named as an executor or personal administrator in a will, then that person is an executor. If that person cannot or will not act as the executor and there isn’t an alternate executor named in the will, someone else will have to apply to the court to be an administrator.

You will also need to apply for the Grant of Administration if the will has to go through probate but does not name an executor / personal representative. Finally, if there is no will but there are assets that will be distributed that require probate, a Grant of Administration will be required. Only specific people related to the deceased can apply for this grant.

In Alberta, the Grant of Administration cannot be given to more than three people at once, except by court order. Priority is usually given to Alberta residents, except in the cases of spouses and adult interdependent partners. A person entitled to a Grant of Administration may nominate someone else to be the administrator.

Alberta’s Surrogate Rules define personal representative as“…an executor of a will or an administrator or trustee of an estate to which these Rules apply, and includes a person named as an executor or trustee in a will before a grant is issued”.

According to the Estate Administration Act, a personal representative “means an executor or an administrator or judicial trustee of the estate of a deceased person and includes a personal representative named in the will whether or not a grant is issued”.

Who Can Be an Executor or Administrator?

Whoever is named in the will as executor or personal representative can be an executor. Only certain people are entitled to apply for a Grant of Administration and the application should be made by the person who has the highest priority and is willing and able.

People with priority can renounce and people at the same level of priority can apply. If no one at the level wants to apply, people at a lower level of priority can apply. If the estate is bankrupt and no family is willing to apply, a creditor can apply. The Crown can also apply.

The priority levels are as follows:

  • Surviving spouse or adult interdependent partner
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Other issue of the deceased
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Children of siblings
  • Other next of kin

If the family cannot agree on who should apply for the grant of administration and act as administrator, the court will decide. The court may elect to appoint a neutral personal representative, such as a trust company, to act administer the estate.

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