Sometimes people named as executors of estates are unable to serve in that capacity. They may have died at the same time as the decedent, as in spouses killed in an accident, or they might have predeceased the decedent.
There are other reasons that could preclude a named executor from carrying out his or her duties. Perhaps that person no longer has the cognitive or physical abilities to manage the estate, or the individual could simply not have the time or inclination to follow through with the process. When the executor declines the appointment, an alternate executor who was either named by the decedent or appointed by the court will need to step in.
If you are an alternate executor who lives in a different province than the decedent, the court may mandate that you post bond before carrying out any estate administration duties. This becomes especially problematic if the alternate executor is a resident of another country.
Small, uncomplicated estates can usually be administered by those with no legal training, especially if they retain the services of an estate lawyer. Complex estates, or ones that are hotly contested by the heirs and beneficiaries, may need professional representation to administer properly, as well as assistance from other professionals like appraisers or property managers.
When one family member who is also an heir is named as executor, this can foment bad blood and allegations of conflicts of interest. This can be sidestepped by appointing an unrelated non-beneficiary to assume control of the estate. Trust management firms can also manage very large estates for hefty administration fees.
Source: Retire Happy, “Being an Executor of an Estate Written,” Jim Yih, accessed October 21, 2016