The Ontario Wills and Estates Law Blog

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My father just passed away. He has bills that need to be paid. What should I do?

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. Generally, the individual has been named as executor in the Will of the deceased but does not yet have access to the deceased’s bank account.

The first thing I remind the executor (‘estate trustee’) is that if they were acting as the deceased’s Power of Attorney for Property, their authority as Attorney ended on death. So, the Power of Attorney for Property cannot be used to pay the deceased’s bills.

It may be possible to have the deceased’s bills paid in a couple of other ways:

• If the executor is a joint owner on the deceased’s bank account, funds in the joint account can be used to pay the deceased’s bills.

• It is also possible to take an unpaid invoice with the name of the deceased on it to the deceased’s bank and ask them to issue a bank draft drawn on the deceased’s account to pay the bill. Banks will always issue payment for funeral bills but other bills are subject to their discretion. The bank will require proof of death from the funeral home and may also require a notarial copy of the will to confirm the executor (‘estate trustee’) appointment.  When initially being advised of a death, the bank may require that a meeting be booked with a staff person trained to deal with estate matters. This varies from bank to bank. If the bank refuses to pay the deceased’s bills, it will be necessary to wait until the court issues a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee. This will give the executor the authority to deal with the deceased’s assets.

One note of caution: if the executor is concerned that there may not be enough funds in the estate to cover all of the deceased’s debts, they should proceed with caution. In the event of a shortfall, there are certain debts that must be paid first. Making a mistake can lead to personal liability for the executor. An executor should also not use their own funds to pay the deceased’s bills.

If you have been appointed as executor for the estate of a loved one, call 613.836.9915 or email to make an appointment to meet with me at my Ottawa law office. We will review the steps you need to take to ensure you meet all of your duties and responsibilities as executor.

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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