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executor estate trustee duties

Help….I’m acting as an executor and I don’t know where to start. What should I do first?

executor estate trustee dutiesAt times, acting as an executor, or more properly an ‘estate trustee’, can be overwhelming. Many of the clients that I meet at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa feel that this is especially true in the beginning.  In the weeks following the deceased’s death, the work required of an executor is the most labour-intensive. This feeling of being overwhelmed can also be compounded by the fact that the executor may be mourning the loss of a loved one and is probably doing a job that he or she has never done before.

With a seemingly endless number of tasks to be done at the beginning, it is often difficult for an executor to know where to begin. Here is a list of tasks that an executor should make a priority:

• Make appropriate funeral and burial arrangements, and arrange for payment of funeral expenses (which can usually be done directly from the deceased’s bank account).

• Make a thorough search for a Will.

• If no Will is found, discuss with an estate lawyer as quickly as possible (likely she or he will need to prepare an Application of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will and you will need to know if you are permitted to appointed as executor or estate trustee).

• If there is a Will, meet with an estate lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the next steps and what options the executor may have.

• Determine if prior year income tax return filing is up to date and, if not, arrange to have these caught up as soon as possible.

• Determine, secure and protect assets.  For example, if there is a house or recreational property owned by the deceased which is unoccupied, notify the insurance company right away and follow their instructions to the letter.  You may be instructed to drain water pipes (if it is winter time) and have the property checked on a regular basis.  If there is no insurance, arrange for coverage as quickly as possible. You should consider changing the locks to be certain no unauthorized access occurs or that items go missing.

• Dispose of all perishables.

• Notify pension sources of the death so that payments can be stopped.

• Ensure the immediate needs of the deceased’s spouse are taken care of as well as for any other dependants of the deceased.

• Collect income generated by the estate assets or payable to the deceased.

• Arrange to have bills such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance premiums, and others paid.  In most circumstances, it is possible to arrange for such payments to be made directly from the deceased’s bank account.

• Re-direct mail to the executor’s address.  You will need ID and a notarized copy or the original Will plus the fees payable to Canada Post.

• Cancel or suspend email accounts if possible.

• Cancel health insurance coverage, driver’s license, cable, telephone, club memberships, magazine and newspaper or other subscriptions, credit cards and obtain any refunds where appropriate.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the ‘first things to do when you are an executor’.  But it will give you a good start to fulfilling your duties as an executor or estate trustee.

Have you been appointed as the executor or estate trustee of the estate of a loved one? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all that has to be done and have no idea where to begin? Call 613.836.9915 or email at our Ottawa law office to make an appointment to meet with me.  As a certified specialist in estates and trusts law, I can share with you my experience in helping you review your duties and responsibilities and discuss and prioritize the tasks to be done.

Reproduction of this blog is permitted if the author is credited.  If you have questions or if you would like more information, please call us at 613 836-9915. This blog is not intended to be legal advice but contains general information.  Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information in this blog might apply to you.

Blog posts pre-dated December 1, 2015 were originally published under Neff Law Office Professional Corporation.

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