Estate Administration: What Every Executor Should Know (Part 2)

As an executor, your duty is to fulfill the requirements set out by the testator's will. In other words, you are responsible for making sure that a person's final wishes are carried out according to plan. Depending on the will (or lack thereof) and the size and nature of the estate, this has the potential to be a long, complicated job.

Knowing what to expect is important, as is understanding what is required from the role. Here are some of the key points to consider as you move through the estate administration process.

Contact The Beneficiaries

According to British Columbia's Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA), when applying for a grant of probate or administration, the executor must make a reasonable effort to find and notify potential beneficiaries before moving forward.

Depending on a family's composition and relationships, this could be a straightforward process or require considerable work. Having a wills and estates lawyer provide assistance throughout this stage of estate administration can be helpful, particularly if there was no will in place.

Put a Tax Plan in Place

One of the executor's duties is to file a final income tax returns on behalf of the deceased and the estate. The executor is responsible for ensuring that the filings are accurate, on time, and that amounts owing are covered.

Depending on the nature of the estate, there may be addition considerations such as post-humous earnings (interest accrued, for example) or existing balances for unpaid taxes. It is important to note that Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) must provide a tax clearance certificate before you can move forward with administering the estate.

Settling Debts

In the event that the testator died with unsettled debts, it is up the executor to ensure that they are squared away. Getting legal advice at this stage is critical in order to protect yourself from future complications.

The executor is not responsible for paying the testator's debts. These are typically settled through the estate. With that being said, failure to properly notify creditors can leave an executor liable so it's important to cover all the bases.

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