How To Settle an Estate: Free Executor Checklist in Canada

Being named an executor or administrator of an estate when a loved one passes can be an overwhelming and stressful situation. You may not have the slightest idea where to start, and it can feel like a mountain of work ahead of you.

At Cadence Executor Assistance Services, we are here to help. We have created a free complete executor checklist for Canadians to identify the tasks you may be required to complete as an executor.

In this blog, we will give you an overview of the estate administration process in Canada to provide you with direction and peace of mind.

Being an executor or administrator of an estate comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. Although this task is hard to manage while dealing with loss and painful emotions, you can find a sense of control and peace of mind that you are in charge of this process. You may feel a particular closeness with your loved one when honouring their final wishes and organizing their personal property. Lastly, you are typically compensated for your time.

As you will see, there are several financial and legal implications of being an executor or administrator of an estate. We recommend consulting a lawyer to fully understand your duties and potential liabilities as an executor or administrator before proceeding. You may also consider purchasing executor liability insurance.  

*Disclaimer - Cadence Executor Assistance Services cannot provide legal or financial advice. 

Executor Checklist Overview

First Steps

  • Make funeral/burial/cremation and donation plans
    • The Will may include guidance.
  • Arrange for the safe care of dependents or pets
    • You may need to find temporary care for dependents and/or pets while figuring out the long-term plan for their care. The estate can pay expenses related to dependents and pets, so keep detailed records.
  • Secure property and personal valuables of deceased
    • Property or vehicles can be sitting vacant for some time. Ensure they are locked and safe. You can notify neighbours or the police to keep an eye out as well.
  • Secure Funeral Director’s Statement of Death & Death Certificate
    • Request at least 10 copies of the Funeral Directors Statement of Death. They will be required for various applications, notifications and cancellations.
    • It is also suggested to obtain at least one Provincial Death Certificate. This is often needed when dealing with property and sometimes is required for insurance and/or by the bank. Find out how to order the Death Certificate here.
  • Notify friends, family and employer.
  • Prepare an obituary
  • Advise Service Canada of the date of death
  • Contact Canada Revenue Agency

Locate the Will

Depending on whether or not the deceased left a valid will, the following steps will vary.

If a Will is found

  • Notify and communicate with beneficiaries named in the Will
  • Retrieve any information from beneficiaries to execute the Will
  • Determine requirements set out by the Will and act as required
  • Keep detailed records of all estate-related activities
    • Organized records are crucial to save time and headaches and are required to file the final tax return at the end of the estate administration process. Moreover, beneficiaries, insurance companies, banks, and other organizations may ask questions about the estate. Having all information in one place will help you answer these questions quickly and easily.

 

If you are unsure about the existence of a Will

  • Conduct a Will search
    • Look through the deceased’s home, check in with their lawyer, or look in a safe deposit box for Will.
    • Search the Canada Will Registry. British Columbia and Quebec have  provincial will registries that should be searched as well.
  • If no Will is found or the Will is invalid
      • You may need to apply for Letters of Administration. The Provincial legislation then governs the estate.
        • When someone dies without a Will or the Will is invalid, it is referred to as dying intestate. Letters of Administration authorizes a person to legally act on behalf of the estate (just as an executor does).
      • Refer to the Provincial requirements and/or seek legal counsel to determine what is required for you to administer the estate. 

*Legal counsel may be required with or without a Will. Estate lawyers can assist with a wide array of legal estate issues, including Probate, Letters of Administration, interim and final distributions of the estate, etc.

 

Complete Notifications, Cancellations, and Applications 

The list of services, accounts, and organizations needed to be contacted and/or cancelled vary from person to person. Furthermore, you need to complete applications for various benefits and compensation.

Cadence Executor Assistance Services can help you complete notifications, cancellations, and applications. Our software will analyze, populate, and distribute hundreds of documents required to close an estate. 

These services, organizations, and accounts include but are not limited to:

Applications:

  • Allowance for Survivor
  • Canada Pension Plan Death benefit
  • Canada Pension Plan Survivor Pension and Children’s Benefits
  • CPP Child-rearing provision

Notifications:

  • Employer
    • Request final wages/compensation, benefits/entitlements, tax slips
  • Canada post (mail forwarding)
  • Care home
    • Request final bill
  • Canada Revenue Agency
  • Credit bureau
    • For identity theft protection
  • Veterans affairs

Cancellations:

  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)
  • Health insurance
  • Social Insurance Number
  • Health Card (required if death occurred out of Province)
  • Home Security
  • Utilities
  • Passport(s)
  • Driver’s license
  • Vehicle registration & insurance

*For additional documents that Cadence can prepare, download our Executor Checklist

Apply for Probate if Necessary

Probate refers to a court-supervised process for validating the Will and officially granting executor authority. Filing requirements vary by Province, so make sure to check with the provincial government’s probate laws.

Probate is not always necessary. For instance: if the estate is small in size, isn’t likely to be disputed by family members, or does not contain real property, you may not need to go through this process. Click here for information on probate.

Financial Matters

 

  • Open estate bank account
    • Typically, all financial assets of the deceased are transferred into a separate estate bank account for paying debts and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
  • Notify financial institutions where the deceased held accounts
  • Cancel credit cards and determine if insurance exists to cover balances
  • Determine assets and liabilities
    • Do this by contacting financial institutions, employer, insurance companies, brokers, and RRSP/PRIF trustees.
  • Settle all debts and claims

Real Estate and Property

 

  • For vacant real estate, arrange for maintenance, property tax, and utility payments as well as protection and care of the property.
  • Verify insurance is in place to protect all real assets (house, vehicles, cabin, etc.)
    • Be sure to notify the Insurance agency of death and update the Insurance if required.

Business

  • If the deceased was a business owner or shareholder, it is suggested you contact the lawyer/accountant used for business purposes.
  • If deceased was sole proprietor, ensure control and operations and continuation of business.
  • Review incorporation documents, shareholder agreements, succession plan, etc.

Final Steps

After handling the majority of estate administration activities, you will reach the ending stages of closing the estate. This will involve paying all debts, filing a final tax return, and distributing all remaining assets to beneficiaries.

  • Ensure all debts are paid, claims are settled, and final tax clearances have been received.
  • Distribute any remaining funds and assets and obtain receipts for distributions.
  • Prepare final accounting of all assets, liabilities, distributions, income and expenses and ensure all beneficiaries approve accounting and sign release forms.
  • Prepare and file any unfiled tax returns with the CRA.
    • If the death occurs between January 1 and October 31, file as per standard tax filing deadlines.
    • If the death occurs between November 1 and December 31, the deadline for filing and paying amounts owed is 6 months after the date of the death.
    • Deadlines are different for business tax returns or if there is a testamentary trust set up. See here for more information.
  • Close estate bank account after all cheques have cleared
  • Provide beneficiaries with the final report on all aspects of administration.

Get the Complete Executor Checklist

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