My loved one died without a will. Can I apply to be their estate trustee?

If a loved one died without a will, the court has to appoint an before anyone can deal with their .

An estate trustee is a person who has the legal right to distribute a person's estate after they die. Estate trustees are also called executors, estate representatives, personal representatives, estate administrators, or liquidators. 

Only residents of Ontario can apply to be an estate trustee. And, there are rules that say the order in which people can apply. This is usually a , , or child.

Make sure you understand what you will have to do as an estate trustee before you decide to apply. For example, some duties of an estate trustee are to:

  • arrange for the funeral and burial or cremation
  • stop payments that end on death, like CPP, OAS, social assistance, and disability insurance payments
  • cancel driver's licence, and social insurance and OHIP cards
  • find and value all in the estate
  • pay any taxes and that are owed
  • file tax returns
  • distribute the property in the estate based on the

The process you follow is called “administering” or “winding up” the estate. It usually takes one to 2 years to administer a simple estate.

Get legal help

You might want to talk to an estates lawyer if you're thinking of applying to be an estate trustee. A lawyer can explain an estate trustee's duties, help you with applying, and may also help you administer the estate.

You may want a lawyer's help if the:

  • estate is complex, for example, because the person owned property in more than one country or had a business,
  • don't agree on some issues and there are competing claims by minors, stepchildren, married spouses, or common-law partners, or
  • estate seems to have more debts than assets.

In general, if you need professional advice from a lawyer or financial advisor, their fees and costs are paid from the estate if they are reasonable.

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