A close friend or loved one has died and you are aware that you have been named executor in his or her Will.
What should you do next?

Step 1
Locate the Will. In many cases, the deceased will have told the executor where the Will is located but there are times where the deceased has not informed the executor of the location of the Will. Where the Will cannot be easily located, the executor will have to submit a form called an Application for Search of Wills Notice with the Wills Registry administered by the Vital Statistics Agency of British Columbia, which provided if a legal professional submitted a Wills Notice, will indicate the last known location of the Will and the name of the legal professional who prepared the Will. Sometimes, the original of the Will may not be located but a copy of the Will may be located and that is usually sufficient to carry out the last wishes of the deceased.

Step 2
Once the Will is located then it is always a good idea to review the terms of the Will with a lawyer specializing in the area of Wills and Estates, followed by a meeting with a Certified Public Accountant to understand what steps need to be taken so as to ensure the deceased and the estate remain in compliance with the Income Tax Act

Step 3
Arrange for the funeral of the deceased. In many cases, you can take the bills from the funeral home to the financial institution and the financial institution will release funds from the deceased’s account to pay the funeral bills in
advance of the grant of probate.

Step 4
Cancel all credit cards and subscriptions.

Step 5
Apply for Canada Pension Plan Death Benefits as there is a strict time limit for applying for such benefits and review any other employment relation pension plans that the deceased received during his/her lifetime to determine if any death benefits are available.

Step 6
Compile a list of assets and debts in the sole name of the Deceased.

Step 7
Obtain death certificates to facilitate the transfer of assets owned by the deceased jointly with others into the name of the survivor(s). Such assets can include joint bank accounts and real estates. Also, submit the death certificate to those financial institutions where the deceased had RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs or life insurance policies with named beneficiaries.

Step 8
With the assistance of a Wills & Estates lawyer, apply for a grant of probate of the Will which is the legal process through which the validity of the Will is recognized by an order of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. For more information on what probate is, please see our articled called WHAT IS PROBATE?

Step 9
Once probate is granted, take the court order – grant of probate to all financial institutions where the deceased had accounts and have such accounts transferred into your name, Executor of the Estate of the “Name of the Deceased”. In the event that deceased owned real estate in British Columbia, submit the court order – grant of probate to the Land Title Survey Authority to have any parcels of real estate in the deceased’s sole name registered into your name, Executor of the Estate of the “Name of the Deceased”.

Step 10
Advertise for Creditors of the Deceased, examine all creditor’s claims, and pay all proven debts of the Deceased.

Step 11
Collect all amounts due and owing to the Deceased.

Step 12
With the assistance of a Certified Public Accountant, arrange for filing of all requisite tax returns and obtain from Canada Revenue Agency, the tax clearance certificate which confirms that all taxes of the Deceased and the Estate have been paid. Failure to obtain the tax clearance certificate prior to distributing the estate to beneficiaries could result in you being personally liable for unpaid taxes of the Deceased and the Estate.

Step 13
Prepare an accounting of monies transferred into your name in your capacity as executor and funds paid out to cover estate expenses. Prepare a further accounting of the funds remaining after payment of estate expenses to be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will.

Step 14
After waiting a period of 180 days from the grant of probate so as to ensure no challenges to the Will by a spouse or children of the Deceased, obtain the written consent of the beneficiaries to the proposed distribution of the Deceased’s estate and a signed release from each beneficiary releasing you from any claims as the executor of the estate and once having obtained the written consents and releases from all beneficiaries, then distribute the funds.

Depending on the biographical details of the Deceased, the size of the Deceased’s estate and the nature of assets held by the Estate, the steps outlined above may be incomplete or slightly out of sequence. It is important to consult the advice of a wills and estates lawyer to determine the correct steps to take when administering an estate. If you or a loved one has been appointed an executor under the terms of a Will, consult Vancouver and Burnaby Wills, Estates, and Probates lawyer Andrew Rebane at Resolutions Law Corporation, Burnaby British Columbia at [email protected] or 778-372-7107.