Estate Administration Lawyers in Calgary AB Making Estate Administration Easier
Not every person is put in a situation where they find themselves the executor of a deceased’s estate, or in charge of the estate administration. However, if you have found yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to speak with estate administration lawyers who are happy to provide legal services in advising personal representatives. This can be especially helpful if you do not have a history of probate law or estate administration.
The estate lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates understand that losing a loved one is difficult enough before it comes to estate litigation and legal obligations. That’s why a member of the law firm is always standing by to schedule an initial consultation on the legal services they can provide to personal representatives. Call today at 403-934-2500.
What is the Estate Administration Process for Someone Who Has Been Appointed Personal Representative?
As we’ve covered, handling a deceased’s home, accounts, or estate assets is not a process that every person will go through. However, if this is a situation about which you are curious, or if you have been tasked as a personal representative, you will need to know what will be expected of you.
In this article, we will be laying out the basic steps for the estate administration process that personal representatives will be required to go through. During this process, there will most likely be professionals with experience in the field of estate administration to guide you through the more difficult parts; probate lawyers, estate administration lawyers, financial advisors, staff at financial institutions, and many others. However, there is always the issue that too many people advising you will feel more than overwhelming, so you will want to have an outline of the expected process:
- Locating wills
- Registration of Death, Death Certificate, and other forms
- Locating assets and debts
- Notifying beneficiaries
- Beginning probate process
- Selling assets
- Paying debts and distributing assets
During each step of the process, legal issues may arise. If a legal matter arises, having experienced lawyers to give great advice to properly handle a loved one’s estate and property in your and the deceased’s best interest will prove to grant you the freedom to continue the process with much less stress.
First Step: Locating Wills
If someone listed you as their executor or personal representative while estate planning, it is highly likely that they or their estate lawyers provided you with a copy of the last will that grants you the executor’s legal role. If the last will is in your possession, that is a start.
If the legal last will is not already in your possession, you will want to check with any surviving spouses, legal representatives, or other lawyers that may know where the estate planning documents for the deceased’s estate may be located. After that, follow up with the financial institutions where the deceased had bank accounts and check for safety deposit boxes, as well as safes on their property. If you are the personal representative for the deceased, they should not have a problem giving you access to these things, so long as you have a death certificate and proper documentation proving that you hold that position.
If there is not a will in place, you or a family member may ask for a grant of administration from the probate court. During this time is when the government of Alberta recommends that you have an incredibly knowledgeable lawyer by your side.
Registration of Death, Death Certificate, and Other Forms
If you have not already, at this point you will need to complete a form known as a “Registration of Death.” If you need help, your estate lawyers or probate lawyers will assist you. As the estate administrator, this does not have to be done by you. The Registration of Death can be completed by the spouse, next of kin, or any other person with a legal claim to the deceased. This form can be found at the funeral home or will be sent to the registry.
The next important legal document is the death certificate; the legal document that confirms the person is in fact deceased in the eyes of the law society and any court. You are going to want to ask for several copies, as you will need to provide copies to close bank accounts, collect insurance, and for several reasons during this process.
The personal representative of the deceased, while responsible for the final arrangement, is not legally required to follow the last wishes of the deceased. While filing paperwork for final arrangements, the executor has a decision as to whether or not they want to (or are able to, in some cases) grant the final wishes of the deceased.
Locating Assets and Debts
Hopefully, in their estate planning, the deceased will have left personal documentation and contact information for the organizations with whom the personal representative or executor of the estate will need to contact. These contacts could be in need of contact for several reasons, including but not limited to:
- Tax returns, both personal and on behalf of the estate itself
- Pension plans or insurance benefits (contact current and former employers to be sure to collect all insurance payouts)
- Title documents to the deceased’s property
- Outstanding credit or death; the deceased’s death should be advertised in order to make creditors and those that may have debts or liens associated with the estate know they will need to collect
After that, you’ll need an estate or probate lawyer to help you collect and draft the estate’s remaining assets and debts, including but not limited to:
- Real and personal property
- Debts and when they must be paid
- Beneficiaries owed in the will and what they will receive
- Registration information
- Interest rates
- Maturity dates
- Certificate numbers
- Payment frequency of bills
After collecting and understanding each of these assets, you’ll need to manage them. Store the physical ones or documents in a safety deposit box. Then, you’ll want to ensure that homes and vehicles are kept safe and well-maintained. Finally, you’ll want to collect, verify, and cancel the following items:
- Credit cards
- Health insurance
- Utilities, unless someone is using the home
- Other paid or professional services
Notify Beneficiaries and Begin Probate Process
All named beneficiaries, and any other persons that the law states may have a claim or business related to the estate needs to be notified of their right to claim, and the death of the estate’s owner. The personal representative must do so, though they may have help from estate or probate lawyers, and they must include their application for the grant of probate in the notification.
In cases where the estate is worth less than $25,000 liquid, or if a surviving spouse or trustee jointly owns the property, as established in pre-mortem estate planning, probate is not necessary. If that is the case, the personal representative does not have to apply for a grant of probate.
If otherwise is true, a grant of probate will need to be requested. Probate is the process in which the assets are divided. If a will is in place and uncontested, this is simple. If a will is not in place or if there is a legal question as to the veracity or legitimacy of the will, the process can be much more difficult; depending on the willingness to cooperate of the beneficiaries.
Once the grant of probate is received and accepted, the duties of the executor can truly begin.
Waiting for Creditors; Selling Assets
Certain entities and individuals are allowed to claim a change to the last will during a period of six months after the grant of probate. Until then the executor or personal representative must simply sit on the assets. However, if all those who have a claim on the assets sign a release, the personal representative may proceed to sell off assets.
At this point, the estate lawyers involved will most likely have a checklist of all collected assets. These will need to be transferred to the executor before they can be sent to the receiving beneficiaries. This exchange of ownership can be tricky, so the executor will need to keep immaculate records for their own legal protection. Any expense the personal representative accrues will be reimbursed by the estate.
Paying Debts and Distributing Assets
At this point, the estate is required to pay any debts it may owe. The executor may be personally liable if there is not enough money to pay the debts, so this is another time when good lawyers come in handy. The executor or personal representatives must then apply to the Canada Revenue Agency for a Clearance Certificate, certifying that all debts are paid before they begin distributing assets.
It is at this point that personal representatives or executors, with the help of an estate lawyer or probate lawyer, will finally distribute the assets that the deceased has willed to their beneficiaries.
Firstly, legacies and bequests must be distributed. These are specifically listed cash and personal gifts in the estate administration. Then, the executor sets up and possibly oversees any trusts that need to be created or have their ownership transferred. After that, accounts need to be prepared for assets, debts, income, expenses, and distribution of wealth while the beneficiaries review and approve a financial statement. This statement is then ratified. The personal representative then checks that all finances have cleared the estate’s (and their own) bank account.