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Official Executor Guide

Welcome to the free Official Executor Guide for Canadians!

You can rely on our team of estate experts to help you navigate all of your Executor tasks.

Executor Guide by ERAssure

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Please Note: Our guide is very thorough, but we still recommend you obtain professional advice to review your executor plan and for complex estate questions. You can use our Find a Lawyer Tool and other free resources here.

STEP 1: Collect Important Information

The first step you need to take as the Executor of the will is to collect essential information like banking information, key contacts, and the whereabouts of assets.

Use your own copy of the Executor Guide as a template to collect the following:

Estate Information

  • Deceased’s Full Name
  • Full Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Date of Death
  • Passport Number
  • SIN Number
  • Employer
  • Where the will is stored
  • Who the funeral arrangements are with
  • Bank and Branch
  • Safety deposit box
  • Executor and Co-Executor
  • Spouse of the Deceased (if applicable)

Key Contacts

  • Lawyer
  • Financial Advisor
  • Accountant
  • Insurance Broker
  • Key Business Contact
  • Key Family Member
  • Executor Liability Insurance Contact (1-855-636-3777)
  • Power of Attorney (name, address, phone number)

Banking and Insurance

  • Financial Institution (name, account type, account #)
  • Insurance Information (company, agent, policy number, beneficiary, face amount)
  • Investment Information (company, broker, account #)
  • Pension/Annuity Information (company, date of deposit, amount)

Properties

  • Address/Location
  • Property Manager
  • Mortgage Holder

Other Asset Information

  • Type of Asset
  • Key Contact
  • Location (Address)
  • Instructions

Passwords

  • Online Banking
  • Telephone
  • Internet
  • Social Media
  • Utilities
  • Email
  • Music Subscription

STEP 2: Immediate Tasks

Some of your Executor tasks are going to require more immediate attention than others, so it’s important to prioritize.

Upon Passing

  • Make the funeral/burial arrangements (were any details pre-planned or pre-arranged?)
  • Make special arrangements, such as organ donation.
  • Arrange for care of dependents or pets.
  • Identify immediate cash requirements for family.
  • Obtain the original death certificate (including several copies).
  • Consider publishing an obituary (ask a family member to write it if you are not comfortable).

Business Interest and Investments

  • Contact the lawyer/accountant used for business purposes
  • Where the decedent was the sole or controlling shareholder of a business, ensure control of operations and continuation of the business.
  • Arrange for a review of the investment portfolio with decedent’s financial advisor.
  • Make reasonable decisions regarding the business investments.

Real Estate

  • Obtain the keys to all real estate holdings and consider changing the locks to restrict access to the property.
  • Acquire and review any real estate deeds and mortgage documents.
  • Review the property insurance coverage and make provision for vacancy, if necessary.
  • If the decedent was the sole occupant of a rental premises, terminate the lease or arrange a sublet.
  • For vacant real estate, arrange for maintenance, protection and care of the property.

Chattels

  • Confirm auto insurance is in effect to cover physical damage and liability for operation of the vehicle(s).
  • Determine if any assets require special insurance coverage while they are still in the home or if they are being stored elsewhere.

Inventory

Collect, secure, protect and maintain an inventory listing of the following:

  • Securities
  • Jewelry and other valuables
  • Cash on hand
  • Other documents or items of potential value

Mortgages

  • Notify the payer to redirect the mortgage payment. Cheques should now be payable and deposited to the Estate account.
  • Collect on outstanding mortgage.

Rental Properties

  • Advise tenants to redirect the payment of rent for rental properties. Cheques should now be payable and deposited to the Estate account.

Investment Accounts

  • Advise the decedent’s financial advisor of their death.
  • Arrange for a review of the investment portfolio and document a plan on managing the portfolio with the financial advisor.
  • Cancel any open or pending orders.
  • Change the mailing address for the account statements.
  • Obtain list of securities held with their original cost information.
  • Document meeting details.

STEP 3: Review the Will

While some people try the DIY method when it comes to reviewing the Will, we highly recommend seeking legal assistance during that process to reduce the chances of disputes over misinterpretations.

You can use our Find a Lawyer tool found in our free resource library.

  1. Locate and review the Will (an Estate Services Plan includes legal assistance with Will reviews.)

  2. Ensure that you understand your duties and personal liability as the Executor.

  3. Identify any potential conflicts (for example, one of three children are not left an inheritance.)

STEP 4: Apply for Executor Liability Insurance

Call 1-855-636-3777 to obtain a proposal for ERAssure Executor Liability Insurance coverage.

This ensures you are protected financially and legally during your role as Executor from the risk of paying out-of-pocket for disputes or debts.

STEP 5: Contact the Beneficiaries

As the Executor, open communication is one of the best ways you can avoid beneficiary disputes (which are a common occurrence in Canada).

  1. Construct a genealogical family history (family tree).

  2. Set up a meeting with family members.

  3. Discuss the Will and any pertinent information you require from them.

  4. Gather preliminary information from the family.

  5. Document the meeting and note the information gathered.

STEP 6: Meet with the Beneficiaries

Meeting with your beneficiaries and giving them regular updates on your progress will make your job easier. Cooperation will always help to speed up the estate closing process.

  • Have the beneficiaries provide you with pertinent papers and information.

  • Give an overview of the Estate Administration process to the beneficiaries. e.g. tax issues, litigation, etc.

  • Provide the beneficiaries with an expected timeline.

  • Determine the Estate’s contractual obligations and the family’s needs.

  • Document the meeting and note the information gathered.

STEP 7: Set Up an Estate Bank Account

This is an important step as funds can be required right away for things like funeral expenses, rent, utilities, or travel expenses if the deceased lived out of town.

Until the estate bank account can be established, you as the Executor will be required to pay out-of-pocket for these expenses.

  • Notify all the financial institutions of the death. Note all the particulars about banking and accounts and open a new bank account for the Estate.

  • Determine if any bank accounts are jointly held. Joint accounts are dealt with based on the right of survivorship and providing the financial institution with the death certificate should allow the transfer of the account to the surviving joint tenant.

  • If the bank accounts are not jointly held, discuss the options with the financial institution.

  • If there is a safety deposit box, document its contents in the presence of a third-party.

  • Determine if funds are available to pay funeral expenses.

STEP 8: Locate and Review Important Documents

Obtain and review any title documents for property and mortgages. You will also need to locate and store any share certificates, bonds, debentures and/or guaranteed certificates.

STEP 9: Notify the Legatees and Residuary Beneficiaries

A legatee might be a friend, charity, business, or organization named in the Will. Some charities have their own very specific rules when it comes to the management of their assets, another reason documenting all of your Executor activities and decisions is important.

  1. Identify any charitable organizations named in the will. Do they still exist? Is their name noted correctly in the Will?

  2. Notify the charities (and regulators if necessary) of bequests made under the Will.

  3. Notify the legatees/devisees of provisions under the Will.

  4. Notify the residual beneficiaries of provisions under the Will and provide them with a copy.

STEP 10: Set up a Diary of Time Limitations

Consult with a lawyer to determine if there are any obligations or duties of administration that have a time sensitivity which can impact the Estate.

Document these activities and put them on the top of your to-do list.

STEP 11: Prepare/Confirm Tax Information

You will be required to prepare a tax return, perhaps multiple, during your time as Executor. We recommend you seek professional assistance to avoid any complications with Canada Revenue Agency.

  1. Notify Canada Revenue Agency of the death and cancel benefit payments in the name of the decedent.

  2. Locate and collect tax information, medical receipts, charitable receipts, etc.

  3. Confirm the completion of tax returns for the last six years.

  4. Prepare and file any unfiled tax returns for the previous years within six months of the date of death.

STEP 12: Contact Third Parties

Document services are available to assist you with many of these routine but essential tasks. Contact our Team today and we can assist you.

  1. Notify their service providers to reduce or cancel services and request rebates where available. These include: utility, television, home phone, cell phone and internet providers; magazine and newspaper subscriptions; club and/or fitness memberships and request rebates where available.

  2. Call Service Canada to notify of the death and to obtain information regarding Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan, Old Age Security and related benefits. 1-800-277-9914

  3. If the decedent received pension benefits or extended health and dental benefits, contact the plan administrator to advise of the death and to determine eligibility for continued benefit coverage for dependents.

  4. Contact Passport Canada to cancel decedent’s passport, 1-800-567-6868.

  5. If the decedent was receiving veteran’s benefits, call Veterans Affairs Canada. 1-866-522-2122

  6. Cancel their Social Insurance card. 1-800-206-7218

  7. Cancel the decedent’s driver’s license.

  8. Request Canada Post to redirect the mail.

  9. Confirm outstanding balances and cancel the credit cards – determine if insurance exists to cover balances.

  10. Contact Executors of any other Estates where the decedent may have entitlement.

  11. Where decedent receives a pension from a foreign jurisdiction, notify the foreign jurisdiction, cancel the entitlement and make a claim for death benefits, if applicable.

STEP 13: Collect Information on Assets and Liabilities

  • Collect and review the liability information for the Estate.
  • If not already done, contact the banks to get the account balances, investment details, loan details, etc.
  • Locate any personal property held outside the home, in storage or under repair.
  • Determine the need and pursue any outstanding litigation on behalf of the Estate.
  • Determine all liabilities outstanding at death and interest accruing on the outstanding debt after the date of death.
  • Establish which liabilities should be paid to save interest.
  • Ascertain personal guarantees made by the decedent on loans.

STEP 14: Inventory and Valuation of Personal Assets

  1. Create a complete inventory listing of the personal assets.
  2. Obtain professional valuations of personal property, vehicles, real estate and securities.
  3. Determine if any assets are missing.

STEP 15: Foreign Assets (if applicable)

  1. Determine if a valid Will exists in the foreign jurisdiction for the foreign assets.
  2. Hire an agent/solicitor, if appropriate, to deal with matters in the foreign jurisdiction.
  3. If there is no Will, then determine the applicable legislation that applies.

STEP 16: Valuation and Inventory of Financial Assets

  1. Review the finances of the Estate with an investment advisor and/or financial planner .
  2. Create an inventory of the financial assets and liabilities.
  3. List the assets by their class and value and include their full particulars.
  4. Include their maturity dates and note the interest rate(s) applicable.
  5. Calculate and record the accrued interest, where applicable.
  6. List the payment amount(s) received and their frequency.
  7. Redirect any payments to the Estate bank account.
  8. List the liabilities of the Estate including full particulars.

STEP 17: Life Insurance

  1. Locate all the life insurance policies.
  2. Confirm the benefit amount payable under any life insurance policies.
  3. Determine if the insurance is payable directly to the Estate or to a designated beneficiary.
  4. Ascertain if there are any outstanding liabilities against the policy.
  5. Produce the necessary documents and arrange for the payment of the proceeds.

STEP 18: RRIF/RRSP

  1. Request a confirmation of the benefits payable and the plan balances.
  2. Determine if plans are payable directly to the Estate or to a designated beneficiary.
  3. Produce the necessary documents and arrange for the payment of the proceeds.

STEP 19: Designated Beneficiaries

When life insurance and RRSP/RRIF plans are payable to a designated beneficiary, please review the following:

  • Confirm when and where the last beneficiary designation was made.
  • Confirm that the institution recognizes the last designation.
  • File all the documents necessary to make claims for or on behalf of beneficiaries.

STEP 20: Application to the Court for Appointment as Executor (Probate)

  • Meet with Estate lawyer to complete the application for the certificate of appointment.
  • Review the documents and the parties to be served. Request originals and notarial copies of final orders.
  • Arrange payment for any fees that may be applicable.

STEP 21: Notice to Creditors / Debts of Estate

  • Place a Notice to Creditors advertisement with www.noticeconnect.com.
  • Determine the expiry date for the Notice to Creditors, once probate is granted.
  • Provide beneficiaries with an update of ongoing activities.
  • Obtain releases, where applicable, to avoid a delay of distribution of assets.

STEP 22: Distribution of Assets / Administration

Review this step with a legal professional for provincial legislation in the case of intestacy (when a person dies without a Will):

Preliminary Matters

  • Once probate is granted, obtain notarial copies to transfer assets.
  • The Notice to Creditors must expire prior to commencing distribution of assets.
  • If necessary, have the Estate lawyer register the certificate of appointment or grant of probate on title for real estate.

Time Limitations

  • Determine whether there are any time periods that remain outstanding which restrict distribution.
  • Review the dates on items such as dependent relief claims.

Review the Will

  • Review the order, division, and specifics for the distribution of assets under the Will.
  • Consult the beneficiaries regarding the distribution of assets in their current form (distribution in kind).

Realize Assets

  • Close bank accounts and transfer remaining funds to the Estate account.
  • Invest any cash surplus based on terms of the Will.
  • Transfer or sell all real estate pursuant to the Will.

Stocks and Bonds

  • Complete and submit declarations documentation required to transfer the securities.
  • Liquidate the stocks or bonds as necessary to meet the cash flow requirements of the Estate.
  • Liquidate the stocks and bonds for distribution or transfer to beneficiaries in accordance with the Will.
  • Deliver the securities to the beneficiary and obtain receipts.

Personal Effects

  • Distribute personal effects as indicated in the Will and obtain receipts if the distribution is “in kind”.
  • If the Will stipulates that personal effects are to be sold, the cash becomes residuary for distribution.

Prepare Payments

  • Prepare cheque(s) for payment of outstanding debts.
  • Prepare cheque(s) for payment of legacies.
  • Prepare cheque(s) for payment of distribution.

Trusts

  • If required, set up testamentary trusts.
  • Arrange for an ongoing review of the investments.
  • Arrange for ongoing compliance within the rest of the terms of the trust.
  • Arrange for payment(s) of income, if necessary.

Legatees

  • Make payment(s).
  • Obtain receipts for distribution.

Tax Considerations

  • Take into account unused expenses from current or previous years.
  • Estimate the current year and closing capital gains and exemptions.
  • Take into account any spousal trusts.
  • Take income splitting opportunities into account.
  • Note the filing deadlines and ensure that taxes are submitted on time to avoid penalty charges.
  • Take separate returns into account.
  • Consider transferring any unused RRSP/RRIF contributions to a surviving spouse.
  • Allow for charitable gifts; include in T1.

Tax Returns

Obtain advice from professional accountant or tax preparer to review:

  • Prepare and file the Terminal T1 Return with Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Prepare and file any other Canadian returns as necessary.
  • Request clearance certificate from Canada Revenue Agency and Revenue Quebec (if applicable).
  • File foreign tax returns, if required.
  • Obtain Goods and Service Tax clearances, if applicable.
  • Final distributions should only be made once you have received the clearance certificate.

Distribution

  • Be sure to retain sufficient funds to cover income tax and any outstanding accounts, including legal fees.
  • If Will provides for outright distribution, obtain releases from the beneficiaries.
  • Distribute assets or funds to beneficiaries.

Cancel Insurance

  • Cancel the property insurance on any real estate once it has been transferred or sold.
  • Cancel the insurance on any vehicle(s) once they have been transferred or sold.
  • Cancel all other insurance policies in place once the assets have been transferred or sold.

Fees

  • Request a final accounting from Legal Counsel and other professionals.
  • Retain a reserve of funds for any additional fees or expenses to be paid.
  • Communicate the status to the beneficiaries.
  • Determine the Executor’s compensation.

Prepare Accounts

  • Prepare a final Statement of Accounts for approval by the beneficiaries.

Beneficiary Approval

  • When Accounts are approved, confirm and send the release to the beneficiaries.

If Approval is NOT Provided by Beneficiaries

  • If the Accounts are not approved, they must be submitted to the courts.
  • Ask your Estate lawyer to assist you in passing of accounts before the court.
  • Complete the passing of accounts.

STEP 23: Final Matters

  • Distribute any remaining funds, deliver any remaining assets, and obtain receipts for the distribution.
  • Pay the Executor’s fees.
  • Pay all remaining professional fees.
  • Do not issue the final cheques until tax clearances are received (maintain a reserve if necessary.)
  • Communicate the final report on all aspects of the administration to the beneficiaries.
  • Confirm that all payments and cheques have cleared through the Estate account.
  • Close the Estate’s bank account.
  • File all records and communications in a secure and safe place.

Congratulations!

The Estate is now closed and your job as Executor is complete.

Need help preparing your own Estate?
Have a friend who’s going to be an Executor and needs help preparing?
Feel free to save and share our other free estate planning resources:

Will Preparation Guide

Inheritance Planning Guide

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Canadian Executor FAQ

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