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The Executor's Duties List

Guidelines and Practical Tips


Most people have heard of the terms “Probate”, “Estate”, “Executor” and “Estate Trustee”. But what do all these terms mean and how does the estate administration process really work?

If you are named as an Executor in a Will or now more commonly referred to as an Estate Trustee, it means that you are in the “working” position. You are essentially the “Manager” of the Estate. It also means that you have all the responsibility and liability that comes with administering an estate. This new “job” can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t acted as an Estate Trustee before. Below are some guidelines to help you fulfill your Estate Trustee duties:

· Is there a Will? If yes, that means the person died Testate. If not, that means the person died Intestate; 

· Locate the original Last Will and Testament; You want to know that you are indeed appointed as Estate Trustee before commencing your duties. Check safety deposit boxes, law offices or document storage units within the deceased’s residence. If you can’t locate the Will, contact a professional to help you determine who should act as Estate Trustee;

· Contact the funeral home; Begin planning the funeral;

· Secure the assets; For example, change the locks to the house, notify the bank of the death (they will freeze all the deceased’s accounts), notify credit card companies and destroy debit/credit cards etc.;

· Notify institutions of death; For example, insurance (home and auto), CPP & OAS (deceased is only entitled to receive payments for month of death), CRA, Canada Post (have mail forwarded to your address), Equifax (prevents someone taking out credit in the deceased’s name), Service Ontario to cancel OHIP and any other membership organizations or pensions received by the deceased from any business;

· Apply for CPP Death Benefit/Survivors Benefit (if eligible); This application can be found on the Government of Canada website and should be submitted within 60 days of the date of death. However, some funeral homes will prepare these applications for you;

· Do you need “Probate”? Whether you need to apply for Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with or without a Will (more commonly known as Probate), will depend on how the deceased held his/her assets. Should you need “Probate”, most tasks, such as paying debts and distributing estate assets, will be put on hold until the aforesaid Certificate is issued by the Court. Once you are the Court appointed Estate Trustee, you will then have the authority to set up an Estate account and liquidate assets;

· Determine value of the Estate Assets; If you require “Probate”, you will need the value of the deceased’s assets as at date of death to calculate Estate Administration Tax. Therefore, gather all financial institution statements for the month of death and contact a real estate agent or appraiser to get a value for the real estate;

· Do you need professional assistance? Depending on the circumstances of your estate you may need to seek legal advice, you may need the assistance of a professional to prepare the application for “Probate” or you may be able to complete all your Estate Trustee duties on your own.

· File the Estate Information Return; Upon receipt of the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (Probate), you have 180 days to submit the Estate Information Return to the Ministry of Finance. This return must be received by the Ministry of Finance within 180 calendar days after a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee is issued;

· File taxes; Hire an accountant to prepare and file the Estate tax returns. File taxes (due date depends on date of death) and upon receipt of Notice of Assessment you may apply for a Clearance Certificate;

· Pay all the debts of the deceased; Do not distribute funds prior to paying the debts.

· Prepare accounting of estate funds; You must account for all debits and credits of estate funds from date of death to distribution and report to beneficiaries;

· Interim Distribution; Prepare interim distribution of the estate assets in accordance with the instructions in the Will or, if there is no Will, in accordance with the Succession Law Reform Act;

· Final Accounting & Distribution; Upon receipt of the Clearance Certificate, prepare the final accounting and reporting to beneficiaries and distribute the remaining funds. 

The guidelines above are general and do not apply to all estate situations. Should you not wish to act as Estate Trustee, you can renounce your right to act. Should you decide to accept the position, it is important to remember that you are the Personal Representative of the deceased and that you must always act in the best interest of the Estate.