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How long does an executor have to settle an estate in Ontario?

Settling an estate is a challenging responsibility that can often take between six months to a year in Ontario. Here’s what you need to know.

Posted on June 20, 2022 by Luisa Rollenhagen
How long does an executor have to settle an estate in Ontario?

An estate executor’s job presents many challenges: From filing the correct paperwork to keeping beneficiaries in the loop, there are many hurdles and responsibilities that an executor must keep in mind when settling someone’s estate.

Probate can often take longer than expected, with unforeseen complications—access to a bank account is taking longer than expected, the house isn’t selling as quickly as you’d like, there was some surprise debt to pay—delaying the process and slowing the executor down.

As such, it’s natural to wonder whether there’s a specific deadline you have to meet in order to complete the estate settlement process.

How Long Does An Executor Have To Settle An Estate?

While there is no hard and fast deadline, the probate court estimates that it takes about six months to a year to settle an estate. Especially if the estate isn’t too complicated and doesn’t include foreign assets or disgruntled beneficiaries challenging the will, the general rule of thumb is that an executor should be able to wrap up all estate settlement responsibilities in under a year. This is also commonly called “the executor’s year.”

If the whole thing does take longer than a year, there aren’t any official penalties or charges, but beneficiaries may start getting impatient and wondering what’s taking so long. In the worst case scenario, they may even appeal to the court to challenge the executor’s competency. Of course, if the estate truly is very complex, then most courts will have empathy and understand that the executor needs more time.

Ways to speed up the settlement and distribution process

While every estate is different, there are of course some steps that can be taken to speed up the settlement and distribution process. The most effective thing is, of course, planning ahead: Good estate planning ensures that an estate can speed up or even avoid probate entirely by ensuring that most assets in the estate transfer directly to named beneficiaries by right of survivorship, thereby eliminating the need for the asset to be probated.

Giving away assets during the estate holder’s lifetime, also known as gifting, is another way to ensure that the estate’s size is reduced and the need for probate is significantly reduced. Another strategy is to set up a trust and place the estate’s assets in the trust, thereby transferring ownership from the estate holder to the trust. These are all strategies that can help reduce probate from the beginning, thereby greatly reducing any later stress an executor may face during the settlement process.

Curious to learn more about estate planning strategies? At ClearEstate, we don’t just specialize in estate settlement. We’re also here to help families create a bespoke estate plan that will significantly reduce the need for probate in the future.

Another key way to ensure that probate goes smoothly is for the executor to maintain a good communication channel with the beneficiaries. A lot of complications and roadblocks can arise from misunderstandings between beneficiaries and executors, and letting them know at what step of the process the estate is can help strengthen trust and promote transparency. If there are delays, beneficiaries should be informed. They should also be given a realistic timeline about when they can expect their inheritance.

Need help settling an estate?

Going through probate is a trying time for everyone involved. Long hours, convoluted paperwork, and legal bureaucracy can really take its toll on even the most prepared executor. The good news is that nobody needs to go through this alone. At ClearEstate, we’re a team of specialists who are here to help you navigate the ins and outs of probate, no matter what your situation is.

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