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Carrying Out Final Wishes

The duties of an executor, Part I

If you are new to the probate process in British Columbia, you may be confused about your role in the process. In this blog post, we will explain some of the basics.

The process of probate is to have the court validate the decedent's will (ie the person who has passed away). While there may be some exceptions, the decedent's estate consists of the following:

-- Real estate

-- Cash on hand or in accounts

-- Investments

-- Assets

-- Personal property

For what is the executor responsible?

Testators name their executors in their wills. Their executors determine the estate assets, pay off all of the decedent's outstanding debts and then divide what is left of the estate among the named beneficiaries.

How can an individual confirm that he or she was named as executor?

The decedent's last will and testament will name the executor. If the location of the will is unknown, files in a person's home or office should be checked. Another likely spot is a safe deposit box or their lawyer's office.

In order to examine the contents of a deceased person's safe deposit box, you will need to make an appointment with the bank. You will also need identification, the death certificate and a key.

You can take possession of the will if it is there, but you will need a to have the Grant of Probate in order to take anything else. Together, you and a banker will do an inventory of the box's contents.

When the will cannot be found, your next step is to go to the Vital Statistics Agency and search for the decedent's wills notice, which may have been registered there. If found, the wills notice must be submitted to the Probate Registry.

It is up to the executor to decide whether they wish to accept the responsibility, which can be considerable. You can refuse the task as long as you haven't intermingled the estate assets, such as paying off debts or cancelling a homeowner's policy. If, however, you have already begun dealing with the estate assets, you are legally bound to see the process through to the end, unless the court removes you as executor.

As the process is complex, you may decide to seek legal representation at some point to clarify the finer points of probate law and estate administration.

Source: Canadian Bar Association, "Your Duties as Executor," accessed Dec. 03, 2015

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