In the event that a death occurs, the assets and liabilities of the deceased (their ‘estate’) need to be resolved.
The person appointed to resolve the estate is either the ‘executor’ (or ‘executrix’ if the person is female) if they were appointed in the will of the deceased, or, in the case there is no will or an executor was not appointed in a will, then they would be appointed by a court and be called an ‘administrator’ (or ‘administratix’).
The certificate issued by a judge when a will is identified as the last will of a deceased person is called ‘letters probate’, also known as a ‘Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee’.
The person responsible for administering an estate holds a fiduciary responsibility as it relates to the beneficiaries of the estate. Holding a fiduciary responsibility means that any conflict of interest whatsoever between the interests of the administrator and the beneficiary must be resolved in favour of the beneficiary.
The role of the estate administrator includes many responsibilities that may be undertaken by the lawyer of the administrator but ultimately are the responsibility of the administrator.
For more information about these responsibilities please review our Estate Administration Checklist:
- Determine who will act as executor or administrator of estate;
- Maintain a record of all decisions made, steps taken and financial transactions;
- Contact funeral service provider to make funeral arrangements;
- Consider publishing an obituary (Vancouver Sun and Province, tel: 604-605-2254);
- Locate estate assets and safety deposit box, if applicable;
- Secure estate assets and ensure adequate insurance coverage is in place;
- Notify post office to redirect mail, if applicable;
- Obtain a death certificate and conduct wills search by contacting BC Vital Statistics Agency, tel: 604-660-2937;
- Review will, if applicable;
- Obtain probate or letters of administration from court, if required;
- Call Service Canada to notify of the death and to obtain information regarding Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and related benefits, tel: 1-800-277-9914;
- If the deceased received pension benefits, extended health and dental benefits from a pension plan, contact the pension plan administrator to advise of the death and to determine eligibility for continued benefit coverage for dependents;
- Contact Passport Canada to cancel deceased’s passport, tel: 1-800-567-6868;
- Contact Social Insurance Registration to cancel deceased’s Social Insurance Number, tel: 1-800-206-7218;
- Notify Canada Revenue Agency of the death and cancel benefit payments in the name of the deceased, tel: 1-800-959-8281;
- If the deceased was receiving veteran’s benefits, call Veterans Affairs Canada, tel: 1-866-522-2122;
- If the deceased was receiving the Seniors supplement or disability benefits for seniors, call the BC Seniors Line, tel: 1-800-465-4911;
- Cancel deceased’s Driver’s License at local ICBC Driver Licensing Office, tel: 604-661-2800;
- Contact local ICBC Autoplan broker, or private insurer if applicable, to cancel or change car insurance;
- Contact life insurance company to obtain benefits, if applicable;
- Contact financial institutions to remove deceased’s name from joint accounts or to transfer accounts held solely by the deceased into the name of the Estate;
- Contact credit card companies to remove deceased’s name from accounts or to cancel accounts;
- Notify phone and utility companies to change the name on bills or change the service;
- Contact Land Title Office regarding removing deceased’s name from title to property, tel: 604-660-2595;
- Contact BC Gazette to arrange for publication of notice to creditors, tel: 1-800-663-6105;
- Examine claims against estate and defend any legal action against estate of deceased;
- Contact an accountant to file tax returns and apply for clearance certificate;
- Pay debts;
- Prepare detailed accounting of assets as well as receipts and disbursements during administration of the estate;
- Obtain approval of financial statement from beneficiaries or court;
- Distribute personal and household effects;
- Pay legacies and make partial distribution to beneficiaries according to terms of the will or the Wills, Estates & Succession Act of BC, as applicable (ensure signed releases are first obtained from each beneficiary);
- Obtain clearance certificate from Canada Revenue Agency;
- Complete final distribution; and
- Contact a lawyer regarding general estate questions and procedures for probate or letters of administration, if required.