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What to do when someone dies
in B.C.
[update 2014]

As an executor or administrator, you're responsible for many details. The first steps you need to take involve:

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Funeral arrangements

The deceased may have left instructions as to his preference as to disposition of the remains (cremation, burial, etc).  This is binding upon the executor.

If you instruct the funeral home, you're usually personally liable for the funeral expenses.  However, such expenses normally form a first charge on the assets of the estate, and some financial institutions will allow these to be paid from the deceased's bank account even before probate has been granted.

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Housekeeping matters

You should confirm any properties or cars owned by the deceased are insured and secure.  You may want to change the locks on the premises. Search for cash, securities, jewelry and other valuables, and arrange for safekeeping.  Pay any rent or utilities owing, and give notice if necessary. Have mail redirected to your premises or your lawyer's office.

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Financial accounts

You should arrange to cancel all credit cards and bank cards, informing the financial institutions of the death.  Check any mortgages or agreements for sale, and arrange for payment or deferral of payments.  You should also request claim forms and written confirmation of benefits from any insurers.

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Keep track of all expenses incurred in dealing with the estate, and save copies of receipts, so that you can be properly reimbursed later.  These expenses should be reasonable and proper.

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Searching for the will

Make a diligent search for the deceased's will since the personal representative must swear an affidavit to that effect as part of his application for an estate grant.  If the will was prepared by a lawyer, a Wills Notice was probably filed with the department of Vital Statistics in Victoria, BC, indicating where the will is located.  Either the personal representative or his or her lawyer must file the results of a wills search as part of the application for the estate grant.

Under the new Wills, Estates and Succession Act, the definition of what actually constitutes a "will" has been expanded and documents which previously would not have been considered to be a will may now be wills. [see www.bclaws.ca/... for online copy of WESA]

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Searching the safety deposit box

Search the safety deposit box for any wills, as well as to take an inventory of the assets. Bring the key, the death certificate, and some identification with you to the bank. A bank employee must be present while the safety deposit box is opened and the inventory listed.

Carefully mark down serial numbers on securities, and whether any items have expiry dates.  Normally the bank will not let you remove the contents, except for the will, until after probate has been granted, but if possible, take photocopies of items like share certificates.

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Inventory of assets and liabilities

Make an inventory of all of the deceased's assets and liabilities. Search her home, and look for bank statements, income tax returns, property tax bills, credit card bills, life insurance policies, and any other clues about any assets or liabilities the deceased may have had.

Some of the deceased's assets may not fall into a deceased's estate and may pass to persons outside the estate.  Life insurance and RRSPs or RRIFs with designated beneficiaries may go directly to those beneficiaries and not form part of the deceased's estate.

Under the new Wills, Estate and Succession Act (2014 - see see www.bclaws.ca...) for WESA act], the law relating to joint tenancies has been modified somewhat so that the personal representative may need to seek legal advice as to how certain jointly held assets should be treated.

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Pension and retirement benefits

Depending on the deceased's age, he may have been receiving Old Age Security or Canada Pension Plan benefits.  You will need to notify these departments of the death, and in some cases, you may be able to apply for death benefits under these plans.

More questions?

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This page last updated: 2014.05.12
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