Estate Trustee and Solicitor Duties

Estate Trustee’s Duties

As estate trustee, you are the person primarily responsible for the administration of the estate.  The following is not an exhaustive list, but it basically sets out the duties of an estate trustee:

  • Locate Will and review to determine whether there are any special funeral directions.
  • Make proper funeral and burial arrangements.
  • Determine the names and addresses for the beneficiaries of the estate.  Also determine dates of birth for any underage beneficiaries.
  • Obtain funeral director’s statement of death.
  • Retain a solicitor to advise you in the administration of the estate.
  • Arrange for and list contents of all safety deposit boxes.
  • Arrange for safe custody of valuables.
  • If deceased lived in a rental property, terminate lease or arrange sublet.
  • Determine entitlement to and apply for Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit, Survivor’s Benefit and Orphan’s Benefit.
  • Notify Health and Welfare to cancel Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan cheques.
  • Notify previous employers and determine any Survivor Pension Benefits or insurance proceeds.
  • Cancel driver’s license, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, cable television, club memberships and telephone, and request refunds if available.
  • Cancel health insurance coverage.
  • Confirm outstanding balances and cancel credit cards.
  • Request Canada Post to reroute deceased’s mail, if necessary.
  • Complete or cancel outstanding broker’s orders.
  • Determine assets and liabilities by writing to financial institutions, insurance companies, brokers, employer, and RRSP/RRIF trustees, etc.
  • Obtain prior years’ tax returns.  Prepare and file any T1 Income Tax Returns for previous years.
  • Locate and obtain title documents for real property, mortgages, share certificates, bonds, debentures and guaranteed investment certificates.
  • Arrange valuations of real estate, securities, personal property and automobiles.
  • Review adequacy of insurance coverage and alter if necessary.
  • Arrange for a review of the investment portfolio.
  • Open an estate bank account.
  • Notify dividend and bond disbursing agents to change address of record.
  • Prepare inventory of assets and liabilities.  List assets by class, their value as of the date of death and full particulars thereof including certificate number, registration particulars, maturity date, interest rate, payment frequency and date.
  • Instruct your lawyer to prepare an Application for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With/Without a Will in the appropriate Court.
  • When the Certificate of Appointment is granted, obtain sufficient notarial copies from the solicitor to transfer assets.
  • Close bank accounts and transfer balance to estate bank account.  If joint accounts, with right of survivorship, provide financial institution with death certificate and request transfer to surviving joint tenant.
  • Report to beneficiaries on progress of administration.
  • Arrange for publication of Advertisement for Creditors and Other (should this be necessary) prior to distribution of estate assets.
  • Settle all claims and debts.
  • Contest any debts, if you are not satisfied, as to their validity or legitimacy and settle any compromised claims.
  • Close safety deposit box and take possession of contents.
  • Invest surplus cash in accordance with terms of Will.
  • Prepare and file Terminal T1 Tax Return (must be filed by April 30th of the year following the year of death)and pay the tax owing.
  • Review Will and determine scheme of distribution of assets in accordance with the terms of the Will.  Consult with beneficiaries regarding specie distribution (distribution in kind) where appropriate.
  • Initiate re-registration and transfer of securities, or arrange for sale of securities if converting to cash.
  • Arrange rollover or transfer of RRSP/RRIF proceeds.
  • Maintain proper accounts during the administration.
  • Prepare a set of statements for all beneficiaries showing all dealings with the estate assets during the course of the administration.
  • If Will provides for outright distribution, obtain release for distribution, and transfer assets or funds to beneficiaries.
  • Prepare cheques for payment of interim distributions.
  • Deliver personal effects to beneficiaries and obtain receipts.
  • Deliver securities to beneficiaries if distribution in kind and obtain receipts.
  • If Will provides for trusts, set up testamentary trusts and arrange for ongoing review of the investments, and ongoing compliance with the rest of the terms fo the trust, e.g. payment of income.
  • Prepare and file T3 Trust Information Return.  The T3 Return must be filed within 90 days from the year end of the taxation year chosen for the estate.
  • Prepare Final Accounts for passing or approval by beneficiaries.
  • Calculate estate trustees compensation.
  • If accounts are to be audited by the Court, ask solicitor to prepare the application and all necessary notices and to arrange an appointment.
  • After obtaining approval from the beneficiaries or the Court, take executor’s compensation, maintain holdback/reserve pending receipt of necessary Clearance Certificate and distribute any remaining funds or deliver assets.
  • Make all decisions as to the administration of the estate, as your solicitor, I am ready to advise on any matter that you may require and to offer assistance as it is needed.  However, you cannot delegate to me or to any others the underlying responsibility for decision-making.

Solicitor’s Role and Duties

I hereby confirm your instructions to me to act for you as solicitor for the estate.  My work may include the following, as necessary:

  • Advise you on all matters in connection with the administration of the estate.
  • Prepare the application to the Superior Court of Justice for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With/Without a Will to confirm your Appointment as estate trustee.
  • Prepare and mail the Notice of Application, including a copy of the Will, to all beneficiaries.
  • Prepare the advertisement for creditors if you consider it necessary to advertise, and so advise me.
  • Prepare declarations of transmission and powers of attorney required to transfer securities.
  • Review with you any time periods or restrictions imposed on distribution of estate, e.g. family law considerations or dependents relief application.
  • Prepare the application for tax Clearance Certificate, if accountant does not do so.
  • Assist in the preparation of your accounts for audit by the Superior Court of Justice if it is necessary to do so.
  • Prepare releases for the completion by the beneficiaries when legacies are paid or assets transferred to them.
  • Write to the beneficiaries with the accounting and request approval.

Aside from the first of the estate trustee’s duties, which is the arrangement of the funeral, I am prepared to carry out any of or all of the tasks of the estate, as you instruct me.  However, the responsibility for decision making in the estate must at all times rest with you.

If your wish is that I assume some or all of the estate trustee’s duties, I will expect to be paid on the basis of the time spent.  I will render to you separate bills for the solicitor’s and the estate trustee’s portions of the work done by this firm.