Most men and women who find they have been named as executor of an estate have probably never performed the task before. As such, they may have some questions about unfamiliar terms and processes. One word that will come up a lot in the early stages is 'probate.'
Probate is the process through which a will is declared valid by a British Columbia judge. Until that is decided, nothing can be done with the estate of the deceased. During this phase, the will could potentially be challenged by other parties, and the judge will have to rule on the validity of any challenges, as well.
It is worth noting that probate may not be necessary, depending on the nature of the assets of the estate. For example, land or homes owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship do not require probate. Submitting a death certificate along with an application to the Land Titles Office should be enough to pass ownership of the property to the surviving tenant. The same holds true for joint bank accounts, and jointly owned vehicles. Insurance policies and RRSPs that name beneficiaries also do not require probate; however, holdings such as stocks and bonds may need to be probated, so it will be necessary to contact the agent or institution responsible for each in order to find out.
Once the necessity to probate has been determined, the proper documents can be submitted to court. There is a fee for the probate process, which is generally paid by the estate. Once probate is complete, the executor is free to administer the estate.
Probate is only the first aspect of an executor's duties, and it can sometimes be quite complex. During what may be a time of grief, the burden of being executor, going through probate and administering the estate, may seem like a overwhelming task. For many, the answer is to enlist the help of a lawyer who's been through this process many times in British Columbia. That kind of experience may help to make the executor's job a much easier one to bear.
Source: cbac.org, "Your duties as executor", Accessed on Dec. 5, 2016