I’ve been named an estate trustee in a will. What do I have to do?

5. Deal with the estate

The last step in “administering the estate” is called “distributing the estate” to the . Before you do this, it's a good idea to get a and to make sure there are no other claims against the . This includes claims for an equalization payment or support dependant claim.

Clearance certificate

Before you give any property to the beneficiaries, it's usually a good idea to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency for a clearance certificate. This can take 4-6 months or longer.

A clearance certificate proves that all of the taxes owed by the estate have been paid. If you don't get one and you distribute money from the estate to the beneficiaries, there's a chance you might have to pay any unpaid taxes from your own money.

Find beneficiaries

You must identify all of the beneficiaries listed in the will. For example, the will might just say “my children” but not give their names.

If any beneficiaries are minors, you must give notice to the Office of the Children’s Lawyer when you apply for your certificate of appointment. Depending on what the will says and how much money they're getting, you might have to pay the money to the Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice to hold for them until their 18th birthday.

You must make reasonable efforts to find any beneficiaries who are missing. For example, you might ask the person's family members and friends where they are, search for them online, or advertise in a newspaper.

It's a good idea to ask beneficiaries to prove their identity to you before you give them anything. They can do this by showing you valid identification, like a driver's licence or birth certificate. You should also get them to sign a receipt for the money you give them.

Specific bequests and legacies

You must first pay any specific bequests that are in the will. A is a gift of a certain piece of property like a car or piece of jewellery, or the money in a specific bank account.

Next, you must pay any legacies. A is a gift of a specific amount of money.

If there isn't enough money in the estate to pay all the specific bequests and legacies, they all get reduced by the same percentage. This means there might be less or nothing left for beneficiaries who are getting the .

Pay yourself

Before you pay any money to yourself in fees, you must ask the beneficiaries of the residue to agree to the fees you're going to take. You must give them a statement that shows:

  • the that were in the estate when the person died
  • the expenses and you paid or that are still owing
  • the specific bequests and legacies
  • the fees you're going to take
  • how much will be left in the residue to be divided between the beneficiaries

If the beneficiaries don't agree to the estate trustee fees you're asking for, you have to go to court to “pass your accounts” and ask a judge to approve the accounts and your fees.

Residue

After you pay any specific bequests and legacies, what's left in the estate is called the residue. You distribute the residue based on what the will says. For example, the will may say that the residue should be shared equally among all their children. If the will doesn't say anything on how to distribute the residue, then the apply.

Close accounts

Once you've paid all the estate's taxes and debts, and distributed the estate, you can close any accounts that don't need to be kept open. For example:

  • chequing and savings accounts
  • investment accounts
  • estate bank account

It's also a good idea to let Canada's two credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, know about the death to prevent fraud. For example, so that no one can apply for a new credit card in the person's name.

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