I Am the Executor or Administrator of an Estate

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If a person dies with a will, they normally appoint an executor to pay their debts and protect and distribute their property.

If a person dies intestate (without a will), someone — usually a family member — has to apply to be the administrator of the estate. This administrator then distributes the estate to the next-of-kin according to rules in the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.

First steps[edit]

  1. If you are the executor of a will or likely to be the administrator of an estate, the only step usually required before the funeral is to make sure the deceased’s property is safe and secure.
  2. Locate the deceased's will.
  3. Notify creditors and others (e.g., utilities) of the death.
The law about estates is somewhat different if the deceased was a registered Indian ordinarily resident on an Indian reserve at the time of his or her death. Administration is handled through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. An AANDC Estates Officer can provide information about estates on reserve. Toll-free: 1-888-917-9977.

What happens next[edit]

If there was a will, the executor may apply to the BC Supreme Court for a grant of probate. If there was a will, but the executor or executors are unable or unwilling to act, then someone may apply for a grant of administration with will annexed. If there was no will, someone (usually the next-of-kin) will have to apply to the BC Supreme Court for a grant of administration. The person to whom administration is granted is called the administrator.

To apply for a grant of probate or grant of administration with will annexed, the person applying must give notice of the proposed application to the beneficiaries, the will-maker’s spouse and children, and certain other family members. Someone applying for administration must give notice to those entitled to a share in the estate and to creditors who are owed $10,000 or more. In some cases, a person applying for a grant must also give notice to other persons, such as a minor's guardian.

Certain affidavits must be completed and filed in court, together with the originally-signed version of the will. If the original will cannot be found, in some circumstances a copy may be probated. The affidavits will include an inventory of the assets and the debts of the person who died.

Once a grant of probate or administration has been issued by the Supreme Court of BC, the executor or administrator will have full authority to deal with the estate assets. He or she must pay the debts of the person who died. He or she must also file tax returns in respect of that person, and apply for a clearance certificate from Canada Revenue Agency. He or she then distributes the estate to the beneficiaries.

There is a waiting period before the executor or administrator can distribute the estate. He or she must not distribute the estate until 210 days following the date of issue of the grant, unless all beneficiaries and intestate successors consent to earlier distribution or there is a court order approving earlier distribution.

Where to get help[edit]

See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:

The Self-Counsel Press also has excellent publications on administering estates, including the British Columbia Probate Kit. This publication is available at most bookstores and most Service BC (Government Agent) offices.

Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Stan Rule, March 2017.

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