We Can Help

If there's a Will, there's a Way to Settle an Estate

Date: May 7, 2010
Author: Jim McCreight

When a person passes away their assets and liabilities make up what is known as their estate. The law requires someone to act on behalf of the deceased to administer their estate. If the deceased named an Executor in their Will, that person, if they agree to act, is responsible to take charge of the deceased’s estate and deal with it as directed in the Will.

What are the duties of the Executor?
  • Locate the Will.
  • Arrange the funeral and obtain the Death Certificate.
  • Notify the appropriate agencies of the death.
  • Locate and safeguard the estate assets and review important papers of the deceased. Ensure that adequate insurance is in place.
  • Obtain names and addresses of all beneficiaries and heirs-at-law.
  • Inventory and value all assets and debts or liabilities.
  • Determine if the estate needs to be probated. If the estate assets can be transferred directly to the beneficiaries without a Court Order, probate may not be required. More often, the Executor will discover that the estate assets cannot be transferred until Probate is obtained. An application is made to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for a Grant of Letters Probate. Grant of Letters Probate confirms that the Will is declared the last Will of the deceased and the Executor is the proper person to deal with the deceased’s estate.
  • After obtaining Probate, the Executor is in a position to deal with the assets, including the sale or transfer of the home and vehicles and payment of the Estate debts and expenses.
  • Arrange for preparation and filing of the appropriate Income Tax Returns and obtain a Tax Clearance Certificate from Revenue Canada. The Executor must ensure that all outstanding income tax is paid before distributing the balance of the Estate to the beneficiaries.
  • Distribute the estate. The Executor should wait six months from the date Probate is granted before distributing the estate to ensure that no one challenges the Will. Prior to the final distribution, the Executor should prepare a summary of the assets, debts, income, expenses and proposed distribution and obtain a properly executed Release document from each beneficiary.
    If the Executor requires assistance, a lawyer will review the Will and estate information to determine if the estate must be probated and can assist with the Probate application.

This Article is not legal advice and is general in nature. You should consult a lawyer to discuss your specific situation.