In this blog, we address what needs to be included on lists for the accounting for beneficiaries, and to prepare for probate.

Accounting for Beneficiaries

This private document, circulated to all the beneficiaries, describes bequests in the will, as well as other assets; and how they will be distributed. Personal clothing, household furnishings, etc. would not typically be listed unless specifically bequeathed. However, in case of a dispute, it’s important to make sure everything is recorded and split fairly; and for the executor to demonstrate that he/she has fulfilled their responsibilities, for the distribution of the estate assets and discharge of the liabilities.

Practically speaking, the executor would arrange for family/beneficiaries to meet, and to select items of sentimental value. The balance of the furnishings, clothing etc. could then be donated to charity such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Included:

  • Assets listed in the will
  • Contents of the house
  • Contents of the safety deposit box
  • All financial assets and insurance policies
  • Vehicles
  • Real estate

Note:  It is a good idea (although not mandatory) to have beneficiaries “sign off” or approve of the accounting at various times during the process of settling the estate.

You may also need to:

  • Determine the names and addresses of those beneficially entitled to the estate property and notify them of their interests.
  • Inform any joint tenancy beneficiaries of the death of the deceased person.
  • Inform any designated beneficiaries of their interests under life insurance, or other property passing outside the will.
  • Administer any continuing testamentary trusts or trusts for minors.
  • Prepare the financial statements, a proposed compensation and final distribution schedules.
  • Distribute the estate property in accordance with the will.

Obligations and Liabilities for Probate Documents

This list goes to a lawyer who will submit assets and liabilities to the court, to ensure the protection of the executors. When a grant of probate is issued (proving the validity of the will by the Court), executors take “possession” of the Deceased’s assets on behalf of the estate, with the authority to distribute it, in accordance with the will and the laws of Alberta*.

  • Included:
    • All assignments in the will
    • Typically, assets that are left to the estate, not already designated to a beneficiary
    • Real Estate - Tenant in common
    • Financial liabilities:
      • Mortgages, loans, outstanding debts, credit card debt, and income taxes

Since executors are responsible for paying outstanding debts, you may need to advertise for claimants, check all claims and finalize the amount payable; and then make payments as funds become available.

  • Excluded:
    • Certain properties such as RRSP, RRIF, TFSA and life insurance, which can name a designated beneficiary, will transfer to the beneficiary (without the executor taking “possession” of them and administering them)
    • Real estate – joint tenant**

This usually applies to real estate but can also apply to bank accounts, and other types of properties.

Note: The final distribution of the estate may take up to two years in order for any unknown claimants’ rights to be statute barred (a legal action that cannot be brought to court because too much time has passed).

* What needs to be listed on probate documents submitted in Alberta will be different than those in Ontario, as probate is specific to each provincial jurisdiction. If properties are owned in another province - like BC - the Alberta probate documents will not list the BC property.  Probate documents would need to be filed for the BC property in BC.

**Assets held by Joint Tenancy would be excluded from the probate documents whereas assets held as Tenants in Common would be included.

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