Ontario Estate Trustees Need to See the Big Picture

Gordon was a frazzled executor of a friend’s estate. He was getting phone calls from Simon, a beneficiary named in friend’s will.

Simon wanted to know, “Where’s my inheritance? I was supposed to receive a third of the estate residue.”

Gordon was running out of excuses to give Simon. But that was not Gordon’s only problem.

As he ignored Simon’s messages, Gordon started getting emails from Marianne. Marianne inherited an antique dresser and diamond ring under the will.

Marianne’s emails were coming daily and asked the same question.

“Why I can’t pick up the things given to me under the will?”

Gordon felt an obligation to do exactly what the beneficiaries asked them to do. But at the same time, he was afraid to do something wrong.

Estate Trustees Need Advice on Estate Administration

Gordon had hired a lawyer help him locate his friend’s will. This took several weeks of running around. Gordon needed the original will to submit to the court for probate.

The probate lawyer had no experience in estate administration. He told Gordon he could not give him advice on estate tax returns. Gordon did not bother getting any other legal advice.

Now Gordon was feeling stressed. He wanted everything to go smoothly. But he was learning there are many steps in closing an estate.

He had never anticipated it would take so long.

As an Ontario estate trustee, Gordon had numerous duties. Gordon was to:

•    get appraisals for all of the estate assets
•    advertise for creditors in the newspaper
•    hire a licensed tax advisor to prepare tax returns
•    sell all the investments
•    wait for the income tax clearance certificate

If only I had known all this at the start, Gordon thought, I would not have made promises to distribute everything before the holidays. Boy, I was way off.

Communicate with Beneficiaries

It’s time for Gordon to clear the air with the beneficiaries.

He cannot do exactly what they ask him to do. He must explain this to them. This will help build their trust. Gordon must tell Simon and Marianne he has duties to all beneficiaries and creditors. Gordon can do this during a phone call or a meeting.

Gordon will feel better by explaining his responsibilities to Marianne and Simon. They probably do not know the estate work executors must perform.

Executors (or estate trustees in Ontario) are allowed time to administer the estate. In Ontario, this is commonly referred to as the Executor’s Year. In some other jurisdictions, beneficiaries need only wait six months.

Dangerous Executor Misconceptions

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About Ed

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu: Master Any Estate in Three Easy Steps.