Once all the assets have been sold and liquidated and all the money is pooled, the executor should hire an accountant to prepare the final taxes. Keep in mind that assets are valued at the time of death, not the time that they are sold. The accountant files the tax returns and advises what the anticipated tax liability will be. You may want to save some money for additional legal and accounting fees, but at this point, the executor is free to do an interim distribution to all of the beneficiaries of the funds that are held in trust.
There is then an average six-month wait to get a clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency, which confirms that an estate of a deceased person has paid all amounts of tax, interest and penalties it owed at the time the certificate was issued. At this point, the executor can disperse the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries following the will.
If you are the executor of a simple will, you may be able to handle it yourself. That said, court documents can be quite complex for someone who has never administered an estate. Often, a person thinks they can do it on their own, but once there’s a hiccup — for example, the court comes back and says the executor made an error — they typically get flustered and seek legal advice to help them through the process.
Rather than trying to figure it out on your own, speak with an experienced estate administration lawyer at the outset. They know what questions to ask the executor — things they might not have turned their mind to — and compile and organize all the information upfront, so it becomes easy to go through all the steps.
For example, suppose you don’t have all the information for the affidavit of assets and liabilities and become aware of new info after filing. In that case, you will have to file a supplementary affidavit to replace the erroneous one. That is going to waste time and money, so it is crucial to take your time and gather all the information before applying for the grant.
Assuming the will is valid, this process is usually straightforward. Things can get more complicated if the deceased has a business that is continuing to operate, for example. Still, the administration process is relatively simple if they have a spouse, children and property.
That said, this process highlights the importance of making sure that you have a valid will. When I’m preparing wills for my clients, I ask them to provide a list of everything they have — banking information, retirement accounts, property, debts, etc. — and I insert that list into the will file, which will save a substantial amount of time for the executor.