The Estate Trustee’s Checklist

You are an Executor, now known as an “Estate Trustee”. What do you do? As an Estate Trustee, your responsibilities are many. The following checklist, although not exhaustive, can assist you with the administration of a basic estate.

Generally, your duties are as follows:

  • locate the last Will;
  • determine whether the deceased left any special funeral directions;
  • ascertain whereabouts of and notify relatives and beneficiaries;
  • arrange the funeral;
  • decide upon the place and manner of burial;
  • obtain funeral director’s statement of death;
  • contact us and seek appropriate advice regarding steps necessary to administer the estate (i.e. ensure the deceased’s wishes are carried out in accordance with the Will and that you comply with time periods or restrictions upon distributions);
  • list contents of any safety deposit box;
  • inventory and arrange for the safe custody of valuables and chattels;
  • notify the government of the death to cancel any Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan benefits;
  • determine the entitlement to and apply for Canada Pension Plan Death Benefits, Survivor’s Benefits and/or Orphan’s Benefits;
  • cancel any driver’s license, subscriptions, household services (i.e. cable television, telephone) and request refunds;
  • cancel health insurance coverage;
  • ascertain the assets and liabilities of deceased;
  • request Canada Post to reroute deceased’s mail;
  • locate and obtain any important documents such as, ownership of property (i.e. title documents, share certificates, bonds, certificates), evidence of debt (i.e. mortgage and loan documentation) and other legal documents (i.e. a marriage contract);
  • arrange for and obtain valuations of the deceased’s assets (i.e. real estate, securities, personal property and vehicles);
  • obtain advice from accountant regarding estate income tax issues including the due date of the T1 Income Tax Return, potential capital gains and whether or not you should hold-back any assets to ensure income taxes of deceased are paid – note that an Estate Trustee is personally liable for the taxes of the deceased so this step is a very important consideration in most administrations;
  • review the adequacy of insurance coverage and ensure that there is sufficient coverage in place to maintain all assets of the deceased;
  • review the status of any investment portfolio and obtain appropriate advice of
    professionals to ensure portfolio is maintained, in a prudent manner;
  • determine the role of the solicitor and necessity of retaining Agents to assist with and perform many of your duties (i.e. solicitor or a professional trust company);
  • apply for a Certificate of Appointment, if necessary;
  • obtain funds to pay for and pay probate tax;
  • serve Notice of Application of Certificate of Appointment With a Will upon all parties who may have a financial interest in the Estate and provide a copy of the relevant portions of any Will upon each of those persons;
  • obtain a Certificate of Appointment;
  • arrange for publication of Notice to Creditors, if necessary;
  • obtain sufficient Notarial Copies of the Certificate of Appointment;
  • open an Estate bank account and arrange for cheque return and bank statements;
  • settle all claims and debts;
  • close safety deposit box and take possession of contents, if necessary;
  • review Will and determine scheme of distribution of assets;
  • consider necessity of reducing assets to cash and/or transferring assets “as is” or by tax-free rollover to certain beneficiaries;
  • prepare a Statement of Assets and Liabilities;
  • prepare an accounting of receipts and disbursements;
  • deliver personal effects to beneficiaries in accordance with Will and obtain receipts;
  • re-register and transfer securities, if necessary;
  • transfer real property, if necessary;
  • deliver legacies and obtain receipts, if necessary;
  • arrange rollover or transfer of certain assets, if necessary;
  • cancel any remaining insurance and request a refund of premiums relating to any insurance;
  • determine hold-back for taxes and any other outstanding accounts, if necessary;
  • obtain advice on the appropriate compensation for your efforts and decide if you will request compensation;
  • if outright distribution, provide an accounting, obtain Release(s) and distribute balance of estate (save hold-back and requested compensation);
  • prepare and file appropriate Tax Returns and other returns with Revenue Canada and apply for Clearance Certificate;
  • release hold-back;
  • close Estate bank account;
  • receive Clearance Certificate;
  • pay yourself compensation, if any;
  • if Will provides for trusts, set up testamentary trust(s) and arrange for on-going review of investments and compliance with terms of trust(s), with professional advisors.

Please note that the above Checklist is not exhaustive, but is intended to assist with the administration of a basic estate.

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