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Carrying Out Final Wishes

Timeline of estate administration, Part 2

Last week we reviewed the timeline of estate administration in the days and weeks following the death of the decedent. Today, we pick up the timeline where we left off — several weeks after the person's demise.

By this point, the estate administrator should have arranged a meeting with all heirs and estate beneficiaries. In the event that these persons or entities live or are located in distant areas, contact should have been initiated via letter, telephone or video conferencing software like Skype.

The estate administrator is responsible for filing and managing all legal actions for the estate. Sometimes this can include providing a legal defence for the estate in the event that claims are filed against it. If such is the case, the estate administrator will need to retain legal counsel to defend any allegations that can diminish the value of the estate.

Even if there are no legal claims made against the estate, the administrator must still advertise for any creditors to come forth with legitimate claims against the decedent's estate. All valid claims should be paid out or satisfactorily negotiated if there is a dispute.

If the decedent had any life insurance policies, the estate administrator may need to collect the proceeds for the heirs. He or she must also arrange to transfer any assets that are separate from the estate itself. These might include real estate, joint tenancy accounts and registered investments.

As the weeks turn into months, estate administrators often discover that the flurry of activity diminishes. Yet there are still tasks to be handled. Estate administrators must maintain meticulous records of all transactions involving the estate and its assets, including the sale or transference of any property.

Sometimes in addition to paying off creditors, an administrator must also collect debts owed to the decedent at the time of his or her death. All claims made against the estate must be adjudicated. A final tax return must be filed on the estate, and the administrator is responsible for obtaining a tax clearance certificate.

Any behests listed in the will must be honoured and the assets distributed to heirs, trusts and charities.

When all of these tasks are complete, the administrator must get beneficiaries to sign releases. An executor's fee may be claimed at that time for services rendered.

Source: Retire Happy, "Duties of an executor – an executor’s checklist," Jim Yih, accessed July 22, 2016

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