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How do I properly settle an estate in Canada?

Before an individual in British Columbia passes on, he or she may create a will and designate one person to administer the estate. In some cases, an alternate administrator or executor may be named in case anything happens to the first person. When a person is named as an administrator or executor, he or she is obligated to perform certain tasks on the estate's behalf. Primarily, that person must gather an inventory of the estate and notify the testator's next of kin.

The person charged with executing the estate will file a final tax return for it and take control of all assets and debts due to the estate. Any debts owed by the estate may need to be paid to creditors. An administrator or executor who does not pay these bills before distributing the estate may be held responsible. If necessary, subscriptions should be cancelled and credit card accounts should be closed.

If it becomes necessary to hire a lawyer to help administer the estate, the cost of legal representation may be paid out of the estate's funds. However, that action may require the approval of beneficiaries or other interested parties. While a lawyer is not necessary to settle an estate, it may be beneficial to have one if the validity of a will comes into question. Self-help books and online resources may also sometimes provide guidance.

Consulting with an estate administration lawyer may be worthwhile for many reasons. Those who are not sure how or when to distribute the estate may wish to have a professional help with that process. Additionally, any legal challenges to a will or court filings may be resolved more easily with the assistance of a lawyer, and the lawyer may be able to outline the executor or administrators obligations during the execution of the estate.

Source: Ministry of Justice, "About Wills and Estates", Sept. 15, 2014

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