Taking on the responsibility of administering an estate should not be taken lightly. From handling financial affairs to navigating family dynamics, the duties of an executor are complex and often require a time commitment of up to 18 months. Before accepting the role of estate executor, it is important to understand the full extent of the associated responsibilities and take the time to make an informed decision.
The Executor’s Duties
First and foremost, the executor must account for all assets, debts, liabilities, and taxes associated with the deceased. They are then obligated to fulfill a range of obligations including:
- Confirm that the will is the final version- this can be done by contacting the Vital Statistics Agency.
- Probate the estate- this process ensures that the will is legally valid.
- Notify the beneficiaries- all beneficiaries and heirs must be notified of the death.
- Protect the estate- ensure that all credit cards are cancelled, that the credit bureaus have flagged the deceased’s accounts, and that any valuables are safe.
- Arrange the funeral- often, the estate covers the cost of a funeral service. It is important to determine if this is the case before making funeral arrangements.
- Notify insurance companies, banks, and the government- the executor must handle passport, driver’s license, social insurance number, and health card cancellation. They are also required to manage bank accounts, insurance policies, pensions, and investments.
- File and pay income taxes- the executor is responsible for any unpaid taxes and for the deceased’s final tax return. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) must provide a tax clearance certificate before the estate can be distributed.
- Pay debts- any outstanding debts must be paid before the estate is distributed. It is critical that an executor ensure that there are no outstanding debts so as not to be held liable.
When it comes to navigating the estate settlement process in British Columbia, having an experienced wills and estates lawyer is important. From ensuring that you have fulfilled your legal obligations to avoiding unnecessary litigation, having the right legal support matters.