In most circumstances – estate administration commences with probate. Probate is a legal process in which the estate executor applies to the court to have a deceased persons’ last will and testament proven as valid and confirm the executor’s authority to administer the estate.
Executor: someone appointed in the will to manage the deceased’s estate
Trustee: general term for executor/administrator of estate
Administrator: appointed by court of law when there is no will as executor
What Is Involved in Administering an Estate?
The executor of the estate will have new roles and responsibilities in ensuring the estate of the deceased person is dealt with after death. Some of these responsibilities may include things like:
Arranging funeral arrangements and payment of same;
Identifying all property, assets and liabilities owned by the deceased individual. For example, this would include things like determining the full value of any mortgages, leases, loans, etc. Additionally, the executor would be responsible for distributing estate property in accordance with the will or succession provisions;
Handling administrative requests such as applying for death benefits, pension, annuities, maintaining any public records, hiring lawyers and accountants, etc;
If the deceased individual had business operations – the executor would also be responsible for either selling the business or maintaining the business operations (or ensuring continual business operations through the appointed beneficiary);
Administrating any trusts for minors (if applicable), notifying any joint tenancy and/or partnerships, preparing administrators financial statements, proposed compensation schedule and distribution schedules if applicable;
Administrating any outstanding payments such as property taxes, debt payments and other forms of owing money which generally gets paid out of the estate; and
Ensuring that other elements and directives contained in the will are administered and taken care of with respect to property, assets, beneficiaries and more.
Roles and Responsibilities of an Estate Administrator or Executor
An estate administrator or executor has a legal duty to notify beneficiaries at their earliest opportunity with relevant information including but not limited to:
identify the deceased person;
provide the name and contact information of the administrator;
describe the gift left to the beneficiary in the will;
state that all gifts are subjected to prior payment of all debts and claims against estate; and
include other pertinent information or documents required.
In all circumstances, an executor is required to apply for a grant from the court to execute his/her duties as per the wishes of the deceased. The executor is required to serve copies of the application and relevant documents to all immediate relatives of the deceased (spouse/partner, children etc.) and any beneficiaries of the deceased including the relevant lawyers, trustees or guardians of the persons listed above. The administrator also has a responsibility to inform the public trustee of the application. Any claims to the estate by parties to be valid are required to be submitted within the specified period.
What happens if there is no will?
In the absence of a will the next of kin or in some cases the public trustee becomes the administrator of an estate and clear guidelines of the order of priority are stated in the Ontario Estate Administration Act. The public trustee may get involved in some cases. For example, if an administrator nominated in the will withdraws from the role or a minor at the time of death is a beneficiary or when a person with a claim is missing – a public trustee may get involved. In a situation like this we also recommend you contact a wills and estates lawyer.