When a person dies, there are numerous steps an executor must take in the course of settling the estate. The first is to have the deceased’s body moved to a funeral home or crematorium. If there were no prepaid arrangements, the executor is responsible for arranging the burial or cremation. If there is no Will appointing an executor, the next-of-kin will have the authority to make those arrangements in accordance with the B.C. Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act. Typically the funeral home will assist with ordering a Death Certificate and notifying Vital Statistics and Service Canada.

What is the role of an executor of a will in Canada?

The executor will also need to locate and secure the original Will, if one exists. In addition to the Will, all of the deceased’s paperwork should be collected and organized including but not limited to bank and investment statements, pension statements, life insurance and tax documents. The executor must then determine the value of all of the deceased assets and unpaid debts. This will require consultation with various financial institutions. Other tasks include securing assets and obtaining storage and/or vacancy insurance where applicable, managing utility accounts such as electricity and water, applying for pension death benefits and survivor’s benefits, submitting life insurance claims and dealing with digital assets and online accounts.

If the value of an estate is greater than $25,000 the executor will need to apply to the court for a Grant of Probate which will validate their appointment as executor and allow them to access, liquidate, sell, transfer and distribute the assets of the estate. In addition to obtaining a Grant of Probate and dealing with the assets, the executor is also responsible for filing the deceased’s date of death tax return and estate tax returns for any income earned after the date of death. Hiring an estate accountant will ensure these returns are done properly.

This is not an exhaustive list. Each estate will be different and some estates will be more complicated than others, for example, if the deceased owned foreign property or company shares. An estate lawyer can be an invaluable asset to an executor when it comes to the complexities of estate administration and can help the executor navigate this challenging undertaking.

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Deborah A. Todd