If you’ve been named the Executor of somebody’s Will, you’ve been given an extremely important job.
Your first decision is whether or not you wish to accept that job. So long as you have not dealt with any of the estate assets, you’re free to decline the appointment, called “Renouncing,” explains Vernon lawyer Robert Culos.
An Executor who wishes to take care of the last arrangements (such as the burial/cremation and the funeral or Celebration of Life) before Renouncing may do so. However, they must be careful not to sell assets to cover the cost of final arrangements.
If they pay for these costs out of their own pocket they’re supposed to be reimbursed, but an executor who does not carry on to probate the Will may have problems having the estate pay their costs, if any family members are unhappy.
If you do accept the job, you take on the role of a Trustee. Your conduct will be governed by:
- the terms of the Will;
- provincial legislation such as the Trustee Act and the Wills Estates and Succession Act; and
- the Common Law as it relates to trusts and executors.
In some cases, it’s not necessary to probate the Will. For example, if all of a person’s assets are either owned jointly with another person, or if they’ll go to named beneficiaries (for example, life insurance, RRSP, RRIF, TFSA or a segregated fund), then it may not be necessary to probate the will.
It’s also possible that if the only asset is an account at a bank or credit union and the balance is relatively small (under $50,000), then the institution might release the funds without Letters Probate.
However, that usually only happens when the person requesting the funds is known to the branch or if the other family members all agree to indemnify the institution releasing the funds against any claims that might be brought by a third party.
In most cases, it will be necessary to probate the Will. One of the first steps that an Executor should take is to secure the assets. For example, the executor should:
- search for cash and other valuables and arrange for their safekeeping;
- cancel the person’s credit cards;
- ensure the person’s residence is secure;
- check the insurance on major assets, such as the residence and motor vehicles;
- redirect mail if necessary; and
- apply for Canada Pension Plan Death Benefits (or ensure that the funeral home has done so).
To learn more about estate planning, contact Culos & Co. Law at 250-549-7168 in Vernon, or 250-546-2448 in Armstrong, or visit culoslaw.com online.