If you have been appointed executor in a will there are a wide range of obligations and responsibilities that you must fulfill.
However, if you do not wish to act as the executor, you may decline to do so by renouncing your executorship and signing the appropriate documents so that the alternate executor may act, or so some other person may apply to be the administrator of the estate.
So, what do an executor’s duties include?
• Locating the will and reviewing it with the estate lawyer. Ensure that it is the deceased’s last will. The estate lawyer can assist by conducting a wills search through Vital Statistics.
• Attending to the funeral and other family matters.
• Determining if survivors urgently require immediate funds for living expenses. Financial institutions will sometimes release funds from the deceased’s account if urgently required by the survivors.
• Reviewing important papers of the deceased and going to the deceased’s bank(s) to obtain a listing of the safety deposit box contents and the securities in safekeeping.
• Reviewing insurance policies to ensure adequate coverage is in place.
• Compiling a list of assets, values and debts.
• Reviewing outstanding debts (i.e.: mortgages, loans, agreements) to determine ongoing payment requirements.
• Obtaining serial number and registration particulars for all vehicles.
• Obtaining names and addresses of all beneficiaries, children and next of kin.
• Redirecting mail.
• Canceling credit cards and subscriptions.
• Returning pension cheques and government benefit cards.
• Applying for death benefits.
• Notifying financial institutions, life insurance agents and completing claims.
• Obtaining death certificates to enable transfer of joint tenancy properties and to claim insurance benefits.
• Obtaining Letters Probate to provide authority to the executor distribute the deceased’s estate according to the will.
• The estate lawyer will conduct the wills search as noted above, prepare the required affidavits and documents and make application to the court for an Estate Grant (previously called a Grant of Probate). Notices will be sent with a copy of the will to the beneficiaries and next of kin.
• Upon receiving the Estate Grant, the executor may then gather in all the funds of the Estate and transfer any real estate into the name of the estate.
• Advertising for creditors and reviewing creditor’s claims.
20. Collecting any outstanding amounts due to the deceased and paying estate debts.
21. Attending to income tax returns and the tax clearance certificate. This certificate confirms that all income taxes or fees of the estate are paid. This is an important step because the tax department can potentially impose taxes that you, as executor, don’t know about.
22. Preparing an accounting of monies received and paid out with the proposed final distribution.
23. Distributing the estate to all beneficiaries (after the legislated waiting period), including a “release” of any claims against you as the executor for execution by the beneficiaries before they accept their share of the estate.
• Distributing the funds to the beneficiaries once they have executed a release.
What is the Wills Estates and Succession Act (WESA)?
Pursuant to WESA, a spouse or child of the deceased may make an application to vary the will if they have not been properly provided for in the will.
This includes common law spouses and biological or adopted children of the deceased (not step-children).
Such an application to vary the will must be made within 180 days of the date the Estate Grant is issued in B.C., hence the above noted waiting period for distribution of the estate funds.
What fees can be charged?
The executor is entitled to charge fees up to five per cent of the gross value of the estate plus reimbursement for all out of pocket expenses. Executor’s fees must be approved by the beneficiaries or in the absence of that, the court.
The advice of a lawyer should always be sought to determine the correct course of action.
Estates can be very complex, even when there are minimal assets to distribute.