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What are the duties of an executor in Ontario?

As an executor of an estate in Ontario, it's important to know what you will be doing. In this guide, we take you through your duties as an executor - step by step.

What are the duties of an executor in Ontario

The duties that come with being named an estate executor for the first time, or anytime, can be a daunting task. As an executor or “estate trustee” you are faced with legal responsibility that comes fraught with a complicated array of duties, heartaches, and headaches. It’s also extremely detrimental to the grieving process.

People are counting on you, and you can count on us. This executor checklist is your blueprint we use to help clarify and simplify your duties as an executor; in the early stages, the probate process, and final distribution.

Our goal is to save you time and money while reducing stress and uncertainty by being a trusted guide and taking a huge burden off your shoulders.

Step 1. Funeral Arrangements

GOAL: Arrange for funeral

WHEN: Right after death

DURATION: 5 to 10 days

  • Arrange for organ donation.
  • Find the will, if available.
  • Make funeral arrangements.
  • Request 8 copies of the Statement of Death from the funeral home.
  • Apply for a provincial Death Certificate from the government.
  • Coordinate care for dependents and pets.
  • Contact the deceased’s bank to ensure payments such as utilities, funeral, etc.
  • Coordinate with family members to notify friends and family of the passing.
  • Confirm payment of the funeral.

Step 2. First Notifications

GOAL: Submit official paperwork to protect the estate

WHEN: 0 to 10 days after the funeral

DURATION: A few days

  • Apply for CPP Death Benefits, for the estate to receive $2,500.
  • Apply for CPP Survivor’s Benefits, to transfer the pension to the spouse and provide children under 25 with benefits.
  • Submit CRA Notification to Update Record.
  • Submit OAS/CPP/GIS notification.
  • Submit a Notice of Death to Equifax and TransUnion.

Step 3. Secure the Hard Assets

GOAL: Protect the Estate by securing the value of the hard assets.

WHEN: 0 to 30 days after the funeral

DURATION: 2 -3 weeks

  • Find and secure all assets: home, contents of the home, other real estate.
  • Forward mail.
  • Notify all service providers: Utility companies, Landlord, Property maintenance, alarm company.
  • Obtain insurance for any vacant real estate.
  • Obtain a professional valuation of all assets over $3,000.
  • Find and review all asset-related documents: property insurance, mortgage, lease, business, investment, will, etc.
  • Review all documents relating to financial obligations: contracts, divorce or separation agreement, court orders.
  • Secure personal property, business, vehicle, perishable goods, safety deposit box.

Step 4. Secure the Financial Assets

GOAL: Prepare for probate, by doing an inventory of all assets and liabilities

WHEN: 10 to 45 days after the funeral

DURATION: 1-2 weeks

  • Find out about ongoing expenses and debts.

  • Stop all unnecessary expenses: Subscriptions (magazine, theatre), Health care (home care), Memberships (gym, club, sports, auto, professional, etc), Entertainment (cable, satellite, websites), Communication (telephone, cell phone, Internet), Insurance (auto, disability).

  • Notify all holders of assets: Bank, Broker, Investment advisor, Insurer.

  • Cancel credit and debit card(s)


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Step 5. Inform beneficiaries

GOAL: Create transparency for everyone and dramatically reduce the risk of litigation

WHEN: 30 to 45 days after the funeral

DURATION: 1-3 days

  • Finalize the inventory of all assets and their value on Day of Death.
  • If you have the will, contact all the named beneficiaries individually to let them know:
  • that you have completed the inventory of assets,
  • that they have been named beneficiaries,
  • share what they are entitled to, to be confirmed after taxes and debts have been settled,
  • any issues (debts, process delays, etc),
  • next steps: probate application, settlement of debts, taxes, etc
  • If there is no will:
  • create a family tree,
  • follow the rules of distribution of an intestate estate in the estate’s jurisdiction,
  • contact the beneficiaries that are entitled to an inheritance.
  • Prepare the 1st distribution of some of the personal and sentimental belongings.
  • Remember that probate is required to transfer cash or hard assets.
  • Inform beneficiaries of your intention to receive compensation or not for your role as executor.

Step 6. Probate Application

GOAL: Probate is the act of confirming the last will and testament of the deceased, and/or appointing an executor for the estate to carry out proper distribution.

WHEN: 30 to 60 days after the funeral

DURATION: 1-2 weeks

  • Seek support from an estate professional: trust office, estate attorney or ClearEstate.
  • Calculate the estate administration tax
  • Prepare the probate application with the support of an estate professional.
  • If there is no will, you will have to apply for a certificate of appointment of estate trustee without a will.
  • File the probate application with the deceased’s local courthouse, along with all the required documents, including the original Will for testate estates.
  • Note that the wait time for a grant of probate is up to 9 months. Manage the beneficiaries’ expectations accordingly.

Step 7. While waiting for the grant of probate

GOAL: Probate may take months, but that’s no reason to stay idle

WHEN: 5 to 12 months after the funeral

DURATION: 2 to 9 months

  • Collect any money owed to the deceased.
  • Cancel Passport, Driver’s License and health card (to avoid identity theft).
  • Book a meeting with an investment advisor.
  • Create a plan liquidating the assets.
  • If there is real estate, find a broker, negotiate rates and prepare the listing to post once the grant of probate is received.
  • Organize an estate sale for personal belongings that have not been claimed by the beneficiaries. Organize donations, when appropriate.
  • Prepare the real estate for a sale: makeover, cleaning, etc.
  • Prepare life insurance forms (to be submitted later).
  • Regularly communicate with the beneficiaries to let them know you are still waiting and that things are normal

Step 8. Liquidate the Assets

GOAL: Liquidate the assets and aggregate under a single estate bank account

WHEN: Immediately after receiving the grant of probate

DURATION: 2 to several weeks

  • Arrange the opening of an estate bank account with your financial institution or the deceased’s.
  • Transfer all bank accounts to the estate account.
  • Sell or transfer estate vehicles (if applicable)
  • List any real estate for sale.
  • Request all mutual funds, stocks, bonds to be liquidated and transferred to the estate account.
  • Deposit all the proceeds from the estate sale, safes, safety deposit box in the estate account.

Step 9. Settle All Debts and prepare taxes

GOAL: Ready the estate for distribution by settling the debts and preparing taxes

WHEN: 2-4 weeks after receiving the grant of probate

DURATION: 1 to 2 weeks

  • Schedule payment of all debts.
  • Make an appointment with an accountant, or your ClearEstate professional.
  • Prepare all estate-related documents: receipts, statements, T4, etc.
  • Have ClearEstate or your accountant prepare the Terminal tax report.
  • Have ClearEstate or your accountant prepare the T3 Estate tax report.
  • Once you have received the Notice of Assessment (NoA), have ClearEstate or your accountant request the Tax Clearance Certificate

Step 10. First Distribution

GOAL: Coordinate with beneficiaries to distribute some of the inheritance

WHEN: 1-2 weeks after filing taxes

DURATION: 1 to 2 weeks

  • Prepare to distribute up to 80% of the value of the estate.
  • The remaining should be kept, interest-free, in an account until you receive the NoA.
  • Have the beneficiaries sign a receipt of the distribution.

Step 11. Final Distribution

GOAL: Coordinate with beneficiaries for the final distribution of the inheritance

WHEN: 1-2 weeks after filing taxes

DURATION: 1 to 2 weeks

  • Prepare to distribute the remainder of the estate.
  • Have the beneficiaries sign a Final Release.
  • Close the estate bank account.
  • Cancel the Social Insurance Number.

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Duties of an executor in Ontario checklist
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Frequently Asked Questions:

How much is an executor paid in Ontario?

Although there is no statutory executor fee in Ontario, the general rule is that an executor is paid 5% of the gross value of the estate.

The rationale behind the 5% calculation goes as follows:

2.5% represent all capital receipts and disbursements

• 2.5% represents all revenue receipts and disbursements.

You can read more about the executor's compensation in our detailed blog post here

What can executors claim as expenses?

Executors of an estate are often surprised to learn that they are entitled to reimbursement for many of the expenses they incur while administering the estate.

These expenses can include:

  • legal fees
  • accountant fees
  • banking charges,
  • and even postage.

In order to be reimbursed, executors must keep accurate records of all their expenses and submit them to the court for approval. With proper documentation, executors can ensure that they are reimbursed for all of their out-of-pocket expenses.

Is being an executor difficult?

Being an executor of an estate can be a difficult and time-consuming task, especially if you are inexperienced. Probating a will in Ontario can be a complicated process, and there are many deadlines and rules that must be followed. Executors are responsible for ensuring that all of the deceased's assets are properly distributed to their beneficiaries.

This can be a challenging task, as executors must locate and identify all of the assets, value them, and then pay any debts and taxes owed on them. Executors must also keep accurate records and communicate regularly with the beneficiaries. If you are a named executor of a will, it is important to understand your responsibilities involved.

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