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Ten Steps to Settling an Estate - What you should know

What you should know

A personal representative has authority to deal with the estate

When someone dies, their property and possessions form their estate. The estate needs to be dealt with. Debts must be paid, assets may have to be sold, and the property must be distributed.

If the deceased died with a will, the executor named in it settles the estate. If there isn’t a will (or if the named executors won’t be acting) then the person who settles the estate is called an administrator.

Whether you’re an executor or administrator, under the law you’re called the personal representative of the estate. The court gives you the authority to settle the estate.

The key responsibilities of the personal representative

The duties of a personal representative include the following:

  • Protecting the property left behind, such as by notifying the house insurance company if the deceased’s home is unoccupied. 
  • Making the funeral arrangements and paying the funeral expenses from the deceased’s estate.
  • Locating the property, also known as assets of the estate.
  • Paying any debts and taxes.
  • If there’s a will, distributing what remains of the estate among the beneficiaries. These are the people named in the will to receive a share of the estate.
  • If there’s no will, locate all relatives who may be legally entitled to a share of the estate (known as an intestate successor or an heir). This may involve contacting people outside of Canada. 

The personal representative must act for the good of the estate

The personal representative must put the interests of the estate before their own interests. This is the case even if — especially if — they have a personal interest in the assets, or they’re a beneficiary or heir.

As a trustee, the personal representative is accountable to the beneficiaries and heirs. For example, they must keep records and give all beneficiaries or heirs a final statement of accounts.