Estate Administration Lawyers in Calgary
Estate administration is a considerable responsibility that usually comes at a time when a family is grieving the loss of a loved one.
Even when the deceased leaves a will, administering an estate can be a huge challenge for the personal representative. When there is no will, it can become especially complex and problematical. Disputes are common.
The experience and guidance of a professional estate administration lawyer can be a great help at these times.
At Spectrum Family Law Calgary, you can discuss your situation with one of our estate administration lawyers, receive an honest assessment of the recommended steps to take.
We can help you ensure that assets are transferred legally and according to the intentions of the deceased.
What is the Alberta Estate Administration Act?
A good place to start with estate administration is Alberta’s Estate Administration Act. This covers how an estate should be administered in Calgary and elsewhere in the province, outlining the main duties and responsibilities of a personal representative.
This Act, enacted in 2015, recognizes the significant responsibilities associated with the role and addresses some of the complications involved in estate administration.
Most importantly, personal representatives are urged to carry out their duties honestly, diligently, without unnecessary delay, and in accordance with the best interest of the deceased’s wishes, as indicated in the will.
More specifically, the Estate Administration Act requires the following of the personal representative of the estate:
- To fulfill all legal obligations, such as payment for outstanding debts, before distributing the estate
- To honour the stated wishes of the deceased when distributing the assets
- To ensure that any dependents of the deceased are adequately supported financially by the estate
Provided that these basic rules are followed, along with the instructions contained in the will, the personal representative of the deceased has total authority over the estate.
If the administrator does not fulfill these duties, the beneficiaries of the estate have the right to file a lawsuit.
A quick estate administration checklist for Alberta Residence
The Estate Administration Act includes a detailed checklist of duties and responsibilities for lawyers and personal representatives to follow when administering an estate.
These duties are summarized below.
Locate the will
You may need to contact the deceased’s spouse and/or lawyer to locate the will. This may involve requesting access to a safety deposit box or safe.
File registration of death
You, the spouse or next of kin will need to fill out a form to register the death and send it to the local registry, which will send you the death certificate.
You will need to arrange for the burial or cremation of the deceased. However, there is no legal obligation to follow the stated wishes of the deceased.
List all assets/debts
You will need to review the deceased’s finances and start gathering relevant details of any property, savings, investments, pension plans, insurance benefits, and so on. You must also establish whether any debts are due. This financial information should be compiled into a complete list of assets and liabilities, along with a list of the beneficiaries and what they will receive.
Publish a public notice to claimants
There may be creditors to the estate that you are not aware of. To protect yourself against liability, you may want to place an ad in the local newspaper to notify anyone who wants to claim against the estate. Claimants have one month in which to contact you and make a claim.
Ensure security of the assets
You may need to make arrangements to secure assets, such as storing valuables in a safety deposit box, securing a business, property or vehicles, as well as cancelling utilities, credit cards, etc. You would also need to arrange to secure the property of the deceased if he or she lived in a rented property.
The personal representative must send a notice to the family members named as beneficiaries in the will and anyone else who may have a claim to the estate.
Apply for a grant of probate
Except in the case of very small estates, a will must be probated to determine its validity before assets can be distributed. If there is a chance of the will being contested, it is best to probate a will before attempting to administer the estate.
Request release of claims
Under Alberta law, beneficiaries have up to six months after a grant of probate to contest a will. This puts a temporary hold on estate administration. The exception to this is if a personal representative gets the beneficiaries named in the will to sign a release of claims confirming that they will not contest the will. You can then move on to the next step.
You will need to transfer the deceased’s assets such as real estate, vehicles, bonds, securities, etc. to your name before they can be released to beneficiaries or used to pay debts. Maintain a complete list of all assets, transfers and other transactions to protect yourself.
Debts may include funeral expenses, taxes, probate fees, legal expenses, and so on. If the assets in the estate are inadequate to cover the debts, you need to protect yourself from personal liability by taking legal advice. Once you have obtained a tax clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency, the asset distribution can begin.
Distribute the estate
When you start distributing assets, be sure to keep receipts and maintain detailed records so that you can provide a financial statement at the conclusion for beneficiaries. You may even need to set up and/or oversee trusts according to the instructions in the will.
What happens in the absence of a will?
When a person dies intestate (without a will), the distribution of any inheritances is postponed pending court intervention.
The matter goes to the Surrogate Court of Alberta and a Grant of Administration made, nominating someone to act as the administrator for the deceased person’s estate (usually a family member).
This administrator will then distribute the estate according to the inheritance laws in Alberta.
What if a personal representative refuses the role?
If the named personal representative is unable or unwilling to take the role, and no substitute personal representative is named in the will, a family member will generally need to apply for a Grant of Administration.
An administrator will then be appointed by the court to execute the will.
Do you need help with estate administration?
Estate administration can be a complex and time-consuming process. Call the estate administration lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Calgary for guidance, starting with a 20-minute consultation with one of our estate lawyers.