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Carrying Out Final Wishes

The duties of an executor, Part III

Many executors don't need to apply for probate, depending upon the estate's assets, as some can pass on to the heirs directly. Properties owned as joint tenancies with other people don't have to be probated. All executors must do is file applications accompanied by the death certificates in the Land Title Office to register the properties in the surviving joint tenants' names.

Additionally, probate usually isn't necessary for jointly-held bank accounts or vehicles owned by more than one person. All that's needed to transfer ownership in these cases is a certified copy of the death certificate.

Insurance policies and registered retirement savings plans with named beneficiaries remain separate from the estate and out of the probate process. However, companies require copies of the death certificate to pay out benefits.

Securities like stocks and bonds generally have to go through probate to be transferred. The transfer agent or financial institution can advise executors of their requirements.

Concerning pensions through the Canada Pension Plan, apply to the local CPP office and inform them that their pensioner has died. They can then disburse any orphan, death or survivor benefits. Executors can inquire about any other benefits available through the deceased's employer, and must inform the pension offices of the death to stop the benefits from coming. Old age security and CPP cheques for the month following the month of the person's death have to be returned.

Certain tax returns may need to be filed, even if the deceased failed to file them while alive. Estates must get clearance certificates from Revenue Canada before any distributions are made. Also, to be protected from action from creditors, you should run an ad seeking claims from legitimate creditors.

Before distributing assets, submit an accounting of all financial activities of the estate and get signed releases from the beneficiaries. You can claim reimbursement for expenses you paid and may claim up to 5 percent as an executor's fee.

If you still have questions, an estate administration lawyer is a great source of information on the probate and estate administration process.

Source: The Canadian Bar Association, "Your Duties as Executor," accessed Dec. 18, 2015

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