Being an estate representative and settling the estate

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Your role as an estate representative

An estate representative administers a deceased person’s estate. Your estate includes what you own (assets) and what you owe (liabilities).

Other terms for estate representative include estate trustee, executor, liquidator and administrator.

You may be named in a will as someone’s estate representative. If you accept, you’ll be responsible for carrying out the instructions written in the will after that person dies.

Even if you’re named in the will, you don’t have to accept the responsibility of being an estate representative. If you don’t accept, the responsibility will be given to an alternate estate representative if one is named in the will.

If there is no alternate estate representative or if there's no will, then the responsibility will be determined based on provincial or territorial law.

Financial implications of being an estate representative

Being an estate representative can take up a lot of your time. You're not guaranteed to be paid for your efforts as an estate representative. If you’re asked to be an estate representative, find out whether or not you’ll be paid.

As an estate representative, you may have to cover some of the expenses of settling the estate until you can be paid back from the estate. For example, you may have to cover real estate appraisals, probate fees or taxes.

Make sure you keep records of any expenses you have to cover related to the death. You may be eligible to be paid back for some of these expenses by the estate.

Understand the potential costs of being an estate representative before accepting the responsibility. You may want to consult with your legal advisor if you have questions about the responsibilities and financial implications of being an estate representative.

Responsibilities of an estate representative

Your responsibilities as an estate representative may include:

  • Making funeral and burial arrangements
  • Locating the deceased’s final will
  • Paying estate fees
  • Locating and notifying all beneficiaries named in the will, or under the law if there is no will
  • Getting an appraisal for the value of the estate
  • Applying to have the will validated by a court (probate)
  • Completing a final tax return for the deceased, as well as any returns required for the estate
  • Putting a notice out for creditors notifying them that the person has died
  • Paying all debts owing by the deceased
  • Dividing the estate as outlined in the will (or legislation, if there is no will)
  • Providing financial information about the estate to the beneficiaries

When settling an estate, you should consult a legal advisor to answer any questions or concerns you may have. You may also want to ask your financial institution if it has any information available to help you settle the estate.

Finding and evaluating assets

As an estate representative, you may be responsible for finding all of the assets a person had when they died. You may also need to have these assets evaluated to find out what they're worth.

Some examples of assets a person may have include:

  • cash, or money in a bank account
  • real estate
  • registered plans, like RRSPs and TFSAs
  • investments, like stocks, bonds or mutual funds
  • personal items and keepsakes

Once you've found a person’s assets, be sure that you take steps to keep them safe. If something happens to the assets while they're in your possession and before the estate is settled, you might be responsible for replacing them.

Having the will probated

Before administering an estate, you may need to have the will probated. To do this, you take the will to a court to confirm it's legally valid. If you live in Quebec, a notary may also be able to probate some types of wills.

A financial institution, such as a bank, may require the will to be probated before releasing the assets.

The cost of probate is different in every province and territory. Probate fees can range from zero to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars depending on the province and the size of the estate.

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