When the time comes to decide whether to act as executor or administrator of an estate, it is important to have a sense of where to start. This month we provide a listing of some of the typical initial duties a personal representative of an estate should attend to at the outset of their involvement in an estate.
Section 142 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, S.B.C. 2009, c.13 (the “WESA”) specifies that an executor or administrator of a deceased’s estate (known generically as the estate’s “personal representative”) “has the same authority over the estate in respect of which the personal representative is appointed as the deceased person would have if living” unless the applicable will or statute limits that authority.
Section 142 also specifies that a personal representative must:
“(a)administer and distribute the estate in respect of which the personal representative is appointed,
(b) account to beneficiaries, creditors and others to whom the personal representative has at law a duty to account, and
(c) perform any other duties imposed on the personal representative by the will of the deceased person or by law.”
A key part of a personal representative’s responsibility is to determine, locate, and protect the assets of the deceased. In the early stages of an estate’s administration, it is particularly important for the personal representative to make sure the estate’s assets are safe and properly insured. The personal representative should also keep detailed records of all their work and expenses to increase the probability of compensation and reimbursement later.
The following list sets out some of the typical initial duties a personal representative of an estate should attend to at the outset of their involvement in an estate. Each of these items requires more discussion – we will flesh out many of these topics over the next several months.
Typical initial duties of a personal representative include:
- reading the Will;
- making appropriate funeral arrangements;
- determining whether a Grant of Probate or Administration is necessary or desirable and, with the assistance of a lawyer, obtaining a Grant if appropriate;
- keeping financial records;
- contacting Canada Pension Plan to apply for the death benefit and any other applicable benefits;
- notifying appropriate pension offices;
- determining, locating, and appropriately securing, all assets and liabilities of the deceased;
- preparing an inventory and valuation of assets;
- securing and safeguarding any wallet, purse, or briefcase owned by the deceased, and the deceased’s key pieces of identification;
- securing the home(s);
- securing any vehicles;
- checking on and updating insurance of the home, vehicles, and valuables;
- cancelling credit cards and subscriptions and destroying or returning any credit cards;
- informing creditors of the deceased’s death and communicating to them that valid and enforceable debts of the estate will be addressed in due course of the administration;
- notifying financial institutions where the deceased held accounts;
- providing a copy of the death certificate to any insurance companies and administrators of RRSPs / RRIFs / TFSAs / etc. that the deceased held;
- notifying Health Insurance B.C. (administrators of B.C.’s Medical Services Plan);
- notifying Canada Post to redirect mail to a safe location, if necessary;
- notifying utility and telephone companies and cancelling services that are not necessary to preserve estate assets;
- returning, uncashed, any CPP or Old Age Security cheques for the month after the month in which the person died;
- handling banking on behalf of the estate;
- paying (out of estate assets) all ongoing periodic obligations of the deceased such as payments for mortgages, leases (rent), or other contracts (e.g. agreements for sale) or arrange for postponement of payments until the estate can raise sufficient funds;
- collecting all rents, mortgages, and other periodic payments owed to the estate;
- checking leases and tenancy agreements and giving notice if appropriate;
- checking income tax returns and Notices of Assessment for previous year(s) to ensure taxes have been filed up to date;
- retaining a Chartered Professional Accountant to assist with ensuring all necessary tax returns are filed and taxes paid;
- if the deceased owned a business, arranging for its ongoing management;
- if the will includes a trust, taking steps to ensure that the assets that form part of the trust are properly invested or kept in a safe place and sufficiently insured if appropriate.
These are only some of the initial responsibilities of a personal representative of an estate. Every set of circumstances is unique, but this list represents a broad overview of the typical duties an executor or administrator of an estate may expect to have to attend to.
As we continue our executor-centric series of posts, over the next several months we will discuss in more depth some of the duties of a personal representative and the administrative considerations associated with carrying them out.