Being an executor is an important obligation not to be taken lightly. There are many duties that are necessary.
The Estate Trustee or executor’s first steps are to make funeral/burial arrangements, obtain the Funeral Director’s Proof of Death and deceased’s identification, bank and credit cards, Last Will (any codicils), valuables needing safekeeping, notify the next of kin and deceased’s financial institution(s), locate any safety deposit box and obtain financial statements.
√ Meet with a Lawyer
Bring to your appointment all legal documents and financial information collected. The lawyer will assess the information, and read the Will to ensure you understands your duties and personal liability, identify potential conflicts, contractual obligations or support obligations the deceased had, determine if the deceased has any outstanding litigation, determine whether to purchase executor insurance, and outline the timing for the various steps in the administration.
√ Apply to Court for Appointment (Probate)
If probate is needed your lawyer will help you apply for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee and determine the estate administration tax owing and help you complete the Estate Information Return. Your lawyer will serve the appropriate parties and help you determine whether executor insurance should be obtained.
√ Contact Beneficiaries
Provide each beneficiary with an overview of the process, and document any meetings and information you provide. If there is a Will, provide each legatee (person receiving a legacy under the will) with the clause relevant to him or her and provide the residual beneficiaries with a copy of the Will. Your lawyer usually takes care if this for you as part of the probate process. You have a duty to provide regular reports to beneficiaries.
√ Collect and Value the Assets and Liabilities
Make a list of the deceased’s bank and investment accounts, balances, loans, life insurance policies, liabilities, interest owed, digital, etc. by class and value of assets. Distinguish the estate assets from jointly held property and designated with a beneficiary’s assets, which may not form part of the estate. Determine if any assets are located in foreign jurisdictions, if any are missing, and determine if the deceased personally guaranteed any loans.
As part of the process, consider whether there may be any spousal election made, children conceived but born after or conceived and born after death, and or any dependent support or other claims.
√ Contact Third Parties
Notify and cancel, as necessary, all service providers, insurance, property maintenance, utilities, newspaper/magazine subscriptions, cable TV, club memberships, home and cell phone, internet service, social media accounts, and request available rebates. Notify Service Canada to cancel Income Security Program benefits and inform Canada Pension Plan, Veteran’s Affairs and any relevant foreign jurisdiction where the deceased received a pension, and where appropriate, seek death benefits and survivor benefits. Cancel the deceased’s driver’s license, provincial and private health insurance, social insurance card and set up mail redirection with Canada Post. Confirm outstanding debts and cancel credit cards, determining whether insurance exists to pay balances (e.g., life insurance on credit cards, mortgage insurance).
√ Pay Creditors/Debts
Search for creditors (can be done online now), then pay the deceased’s and estate’s debts such as funeral expenses, utilities, income tax, probate fees (estate administration tax), any settled claims, and professional fees prior to making any distribution. A release should also be obtained prior to making a distribution.
√ Prepare/Confirm Tax Information
Prepare and file any unfiled tax returns for previous years within six months of the date of death. Prepare and file Terminal T1 Return and any additional types of relevant tax returns (e.g., Rights and Things return, trust return, sole proprietorship return, foreign tax return). Request income tax clearance certificates and obtain HST clearances if applicable.
√ Prepare Accounts
Prepare final statements of accounts for passing or approval by beneficiaries with the executor compensation outlined. If the accounts are not approved, you can submit them to the court for passing, which your lawyer can assist with.
√ Distribute the Assets
After the debts have been identified and/or paid and releases received a distribution can be made. Often there is more than one distribution during the course of an administration.
If you have questions about estate administration, or wish to schedule an appointment, contact Sweatman Law Firm. We represent executors and beneficiaries in all types of estate matters. We will work to protect your interests, explain your legal options and provide you with experienced advice.