When someone close to us passes away, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the loss and by all the details of managing their affairs. Some issues that demand attention right away include funeral arrangements, contacting family and locating the Will. Locating the Will is important as it may contain funeral wishes and it appoints someone, the Executor, to be responsible for the management of the Estate. If you do not know where the original Will was kept, you can do a search of the B.C. Wills Registry through the Vital Statistics Agency.
What does it mean that I was appointed “Executor”?
If you have been appointed Executor you must decide if you are up to the task before you begin to meddle with the Estate’s assets and debts, otherwise you will not be allowed to back out and you must see things through to their completion. If you decide to act, it is helpful to keep a diary of everything that you do as Executor; any expenses incurred, debts paid, any important items located, and the names and contact information of people you speak with about the Estate. It is important to stay organized, as one of your duties is to be able account for all assets, debts, expenses and income of the Estate.
What are my responsibilities?
You are responsible for the safekeeping of everything owned by the Estate. This means that you must make sure the house and cars are locked up, insurance is in place and valid, make sure that any business interests are being taken care of, rent is being collected, and investments are being managed. In short, if you neglect some part of the Estate which results in a financial loss, you will be personally responsible for that loss. You are also responsible for making sure that all debts and taxes are paid before you distribute any gifts or pay any inheritance.
What kind of tasks can I expect to be doing?
There are many seemingly little tasks that must also be seen to and if you are not organized they can be overwhelming. For example; obtaining a death certificate, collecting wages, collecting pensions and benefits, selling real estate and motor vehicles, filing taxes, having items appraised, collecting debts, depositing cheques, redirecting mail, transferring bonus points plans, cancelling all cards in their wallet and their passport, tracking down beneficiaries, making business arrangements and generally fulfilling all legal obligations of the deceased.
What is Probate?
In order to accomplish these tasks, you will need to apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for a Grant of Probate and pay Probate fees. Probate confirms to the world that you are legally authorized to act for the Estate.
How do I decide what to do?
Each Estate is as unique as the individual who passed away. Some Estates can be very complex and your duties as Executor can last for several years. When considering if you are capable of making the long term commitment to seeing it through, it helps to consult a lawyer to get a picture of exactly how demanding the duty will be.
This article is meant to serve as a guide only. These suggestions apply to many estates, however they may not all apply to the estate which you are administering. This is not a complete list of duties or assets; there may also be other assets that require protection and that aren’t dealt with in this document. As each estate is unique, there may be many other tasks and matters that require your attention. Please contact us if you have any questions.
The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.