The two most important aspects of successful estate administration are leaving proper instructions and having people in place that can carry out those instructions in a way that is timely, cost effective, creates the intended legacy and maintains harmony. At Legacy Private Trust we provide estate administration services and we are always here to act as your Estate Trustee, co-Estate Trustee, alternate Estate Trustee or Agent for an Estate Trustee. We are here to administer your estate. Please remember we do not draft Wills or Codicils but we can direct you to professionals who do and work closely with them to help create the best possible plan for you.
Preparing your Will
Your Will is one of the key documents in the asset succession part of your estate plan. For some it may be the only document that provides for the distribution of assets. For others who have used Powers of Attorney, Codicils, trusts or other strategies for estate planning, tax planning or other reasons, a Will is an important document.
There are four things you need to ask yourself before you and your lawyer prepare your Will:
- What assets you have that need to be distributed upon passing away.
- Who you wish to be the beneficiaries of those assets.
- How assets or sums are to be distributed. Assets can be distributed outright to a beneficiary, beneficiaries can enjoy certain assets in a certain order or when certain conditions are met and sometimes the distribution of certain assets to particular beneficiaries can occur at some later date through a trust or foundation. The possibilities are limitless.
- Who you will appoint as your Estate Trustee to administer your Estate and who you will appoint as Trustees to administer any trusts or foundations that are created under your Will. For an all-encompassing estate plan you will also want to consider who you appoint as Guardian for Personal Care & Health and Guardian for Property for any minor children and who you will appoint under Powers of Attorney as your Attorney for Property and your Attorney for Personal Care & Health.
We have listed these tasks in the order we have for good reasons. Once you have prepared your wishes and determined what work will be involved, it is time to select your Estate Trustee and Trustees for any trusts created under your Will. Legacy Private Trust is proud to be appointed as Estate Trustee, co-Estate Trustee, alternate Estate Trustee, Guardian for Property, Power of Attorney for Property, Trustee, co-Trustee or alternate Trustee. If you do not already have a lawyer to draft a Will, we can help find a lawyer who is right for you.
Choosing an Estate Trustee
The modern Estate Trustee faces a daunting task when performing his or her duties. He or she must do much more than is usually expected. What was once considered an honourary position has become a position requiring a broad range of skills and a profound dedication to detailed tax, accounting and estate administration laws.
When choosing an Estate Trustee there are a number of qualities that you should be looking for. Your chosen Estate Trustee should be:
- Always residing near the place or places where your assets are located
- Willing to act and have the time to act
- Impartial towards all the beneficiaries
- Able to make decisions in a timely fashion
- Familiar with business, investment and administrative matters
- Knowledgeable and experienced in estate law and administration or have access to someone who is
Estate Trustee Duties
From start to finish there are over 70 complicated tasks involved in managing and administering an estate. It can take a minimum of 1 year to sometimes several years before an estate is distributed fully, depending on the complexity. If your estate ends up in litigation, it may take even longer to administer.
Some of the duties of an Estate Trustee for a basic estate include:
- Coordinating any funeral arrangements
- Meeting any of the beneficiaries’ immediate financial needs
- Obtaining original death certificates
- Making a careful inventory of the estate’s assets
- Valuing the estate as of the date of death
- Evaluating any liabilities of the estate
- Applying to the court for probate and paying probate taxes
- Communicating with any beneficiaries and providing regular updates
- Notifying all institutions, especially financial, that the deceased did business with
- Notifying the CRA to discontinue any benefits the deceased was recieving
- Taking custody of the assets
- Arranging appropriate insurance on all estate assets
- Opening a special bank account for the estate
- Applying for any pension benefits from governments or past employers
- Assessing and applying for any relevant insurance benefits
- Administering and investing the assets
- Assisting in the establishment of any trusts created under the Will or Codicil(s)
- Returning any and all personal identification including insurance cards, passports, drivers licences and health cards
- Obtaining the last tax return filed by the deceased
- Filing any past or foreign tax returns not yet completed
- Completing and filing sometimes extremely complex final personal and corporate tax returns
- Initiating the sale of assets
- Obtaining a tax clearance certificate once all Notice of Assessments have been issued
- Distributing specific personal estate effects according to the Will
- Consulting with the beneficiaries regarding any tax implications relating to inheritance
- Advising the bank to close any estate accounts
- Preparing an accounting of receipts, disbursements, investments, liabilities and compensation
- Having the beneficiaries approve these final accounts and getting them to sign a release or passing your accounts in court
- Ultimately, distributing the assets to the named beneficiaries
If this seems overwhelming, there are a few options at your disposal. At Legacy Private Trust we are always ready to act as your Estate Trustee, co- Estate Trustee with a trusted family member or friend or as alternate Estate Trustee if your chosen Estate Trustee is unable or unwilling to act. If you have been personally appointed as Estate Trustee we are happy to act as your Agent.
Agent for Estate Trustee
Most people who are named as Estate Trustee are called upon to act as such only once during their lifetime. It should come as no surprise, then, that knowing what to do and when can be more than a little daunting. At Legacy Private Trust we are happy to help you through the estate administration process with as little or as much help from us as you decide. Even professionals like lawyers and accountants, who are often asked to act as Estate Trustees, may find that at a certain time in their careers they would like to do a little less of the administrative and accounting work while retaining responsibility for making key decisions.
From time to time circumstances will arise where someone currently acting as Estate Trustee is unable or unwilling to perform the functions required in the administration of an Estate. These issues could be temporary or permanent and effect their ability to perform some or all of the functions required of them.
Some of the reasons for an Estate Trustee to appoint an Agent are:
- Not residing near the place or places where the assets are located
- Travels outside of the jurisdiction regularly for long periods of time
- Unwillingness to act or not having the time to act
- Lack of impartiality towards all the beneficiaries
- Inability to make decisions in a timely fashion
- Unfamiliarity with business, investment and administrative matters
- Lack of knowledge and experience in estate law and administration
- Significant age or is ill
- Currently employed and/or caring for children and/or caring for a parent
- General lack of comfort with the responsibility and liability involved
In these circumstances it may be appropriate to appoint an Agent to act on your behalf as Estate Trustee. Depending on the needs of an Estate Trustee, Legacy Private Trust can perform all or most of an Estate Trustees functions during the whole period of the Estate Administration. Alternatively, we can perform specific tasks for a specific period of time, such as some of the most complex tasks or the administration of any ongoing testamentary trusts. Either way, Legacy Private Trust has the expertise to fill the gap.