Initial Duties of the Executor
Initial Duties of the Executor in Greater Vancouver
The Wills & Estates lawyers at Bronson Jones Gray & Company LLP can assume your responsibilities as executor, so you can focus on grieving your loss while taking comfort in knowing that the administration of your loved one’s estate will be handled properly. We offer legal services in Coquitlam, throughout Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, and into Merritt and Nicola Valley.
Aside from the court application (for a grant of probate) that the executor (“executrix” if female) will likely be required to initiate before the deceased’s estate can be administered, he must also complete several other tasks as soon as possible. These include:
Making Funeral Arrangements
Funeral arrangements are the responsibility of the executor. If the deceased has expressed a preference in the Will regarding the disposal of remains (cremation versus burial), the executor must ensure that these wishes are honoured. If a Will has not been located or is silent in this regard, family and friends of the deceased should be consulted. If family and friends can not agree, the executor makes the final decision.
Locating the Will
The executor must contact the Wills Registry at the Vital Statistics Agency to determine whether a Wills Notice has been filed by the deceased. If so, the executor will learn where the Will is located. The application to conduct the Will search can be found at the Vital Statistics website at:
If a Will has not been filed with the Wills Registry, this does not mean that a Will does not exist and the executor must continue to search diligently. Wills are often stored at the deceased’s home, in a safety deposit box, or at the office of the lawyer who drafted it.
If the Wills Registry does not identify a Will and one can not be found after conducting a diligent search, the executor must apply to the court for a “Grant of Administration without Will Annexed”. If successful, the deceased’s assets would be distributed to his/her descendants in accordance with intestacy laws.
Obtaining the Death Certificate
The funeral home will usually order the Death Certificate and provide the original to the executor. Alternatively, the executor can go to the Vital Statistics Agency’s website and order the Death Certificate online.
Cancellations and Notifications
Cancel the Passport
Return the deceased’s passport to Passport Canada with a copy of the Death Certificate
Utilities should be cancelled if there is no surviving spouse or tenant. Be careful not to cancel any service that may result in property damage (for example, do not cancel the heat if that could cause frozen pipes). Utilities to consider cancelling include cable and/or satellite, internet service, hydro, water, and phone (landline and cell).
Cancel Other Services
If applicable, cancel newspaper and/or magazine subscriptions, reward programs, and credit cards.
Contact the Landlord
If the deceased was renting, contact the landlord to notify of the death and request a copy of the lease or rental agreement.
Pay rent that may be outstanding and arrange for a suitable time to remove all contents from the premises in a timely fashion.
Protecting and Managing the Deceased’s Assets
Prevent Break-Ins and Theft
Locate property insurance contracts (i.e. fire, vandalism, liability) and notify the insurance agent of the death. Vacancy insurance should also be considered if the deceased lived alone. The executor should ensure adequate insurance to cover the value of the real estate and all household effects.
Dispose of all perishables, remove valuables (i.e. cash, securities, jewelry) for safekeeping, and dispose of firearms if applicable.
Locate Vehicle Insurance and Vehicle Registration
Ensure sufficient insurance exists and that it permits the use of the vehicle if necessary.
Consider cancelling liability insurance if the vehicle does not have to be driven, but always ensure sufficient fire and theft insurance.
Search for Unclaimed Bank Accounts
The Bank of Canada becomes the custodian of all assets held in bank accounts that have not been used for 10+ years. The executor should contact the Bank of Canada to determine whether any dormant bank accounts exist that could contain assets. Call 1-800-303-1282 or go to the website and search under Services for “Unclaimed Balances”.
If the deceased owned a business, the executor must ensure that it is properly managed until it can be distributed to a beneficiary or sold. Key employees of the business should be contacted for assistance, and if none are willing or able, the executor can contact a receiver or trustee.
All of the deceased’s financial institutions (i.e. banks, credit unions, trust companies) must be identified and notified of the death. There is no central registry to identify these institutions, so the executor must do some digging. The deceased’s computer can be searched to determine whether the institutions sent financial statements electronically.
All financial information from these institutions must then be obtained. The institution will likely require proof that you are indeed the executor and written authorization before it will disclose this information to you.
Arrange for re-direction of the deceased’s mail through Canada Post by filing the Change of Address (Mail Forwarding for Moves) service form on the website. You will be requested to provide proof that you are the executor and a copy of the Death Certificate.
Guardianship of Minors
It is the executor’s responsibility to ensure the safety of any minors or dependent children of the deceased.
If there is no surviving spouse and no guardian has been named in the Will, the executor should locate the deceased’s nearest next-of-kin and ask him/her to apply to the court to become the guardian.
If all else fails, contact the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.
Ensure arrangements are made for the care of all pets.
Dealing with Liabilities
The executor must identify all of the deceased’s debts and liabilities (i.e. mortgages, leases, income and property taxes), check all payment due dates, and arrange for payment.
An inventory and valuation of the deceased’s assets and liabilities as of the date of death must be prepared. This will form the basis of the Affidavit of Assets and Liabilities that must be filed with the court as part of the application process.
The executor has a duty to keep proper records and be ready to account for how all assets of the estate are distributed. Liability can fall on the estate and/or the executor personally if mistakes are made to the detriment of an intended beneficiary or creditor.
The executor is entitled to be paid out of the estate for all reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the administration of the estate. Keep all relevant receipts and maintain a journal to record time spent and work undertaken.