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Looking After an Estate

Providing a Trustworthy Support System

Looking after an estate can seem like a long and complicated process, but it doesn’t need to be. With the development of a transparent process and the addition of timely professional advice, the executor process will become much easier.

You may feel you are taking on the brunt of the work and dealing with fragile family dynamics during the decision making process of closing an estate, but, in reality, a trustworthy support system will help ease this big task. Gordon’s Downsizing & Estate Services is here for you.

Probate in Ontario, in its simplest form, is the province agreeing that the will as filed is ‘the’ will. The last one. The one in which the wishes of the deceased are explained, and the document in which the named executor(s) should follow.

Many wills require probate, but some do not. It depends on a variety of factors, which your lawyer will help you to understand. Most often, if the deceased was last to die of a couple, and held real estate and/or assets of substance (in particular assets held in a financial institution), probate will be required.

Probate requires applications to be made, assets and liabilities to be identified and valued, and fees to be paid. The benefit of probate is that it provides the executors with some protection. A probated will means that the province has endorsed the fact that this is the will, you are the executor, and you have the authority to act.

Suffice to say, that if your lawyer says you need to probate the will, then we support that.

The importance of completing estate appraisals given the requirements of The New Ontario Estate Administration Tax Regime that came into effect January 1, 2015 under the Estate Administration Tax Act for probate filing cannot be emphasized enough. Having all estate assets (real and personal property) properly appraised, helps get an estate trustee on the right track at the outset. When dealing with estates, Gordon's always provides true appraisals, rather than simple "opinions of value", which were more common historically.

The will is the official collective wishes of the deceased. A will could be a hand-written and a hand-signed document, appropriately filled out by the deceased or a document made with a lawyer. If you are the executor or trustee, hopefully it was done professionally. That way your path is clearer, safer and a lawyer or a firm is in place for you to consult with.

A will often names the executor(s), generally describes the assets of the deceased, and instructs how payment of obligations and distribution of assets should go. This might include specific items going to specific people or organizations. A will often concludes with “liquidate the remainder and divide” in some specified manner.

The executor’s responsibility is to carry out those wishes as best as they can.

Executors cannot delegate the job of being executor. You can renounce and refuse to take on the role if you wish, but if you take it on, you will remain accountable for the things that must be done.

On the other hand, you can involve all experts. You can engage a lawyer or Trust Company and have them help with things you mutually agree on. You can hire an accountant rather than do the accounting yourself. You can hire a real estate agent, an appraiser, an auctioneer, gardener, cleaner, repair people, snow or grass maintenance, insurance checks etc. as you deem appropriate, all of which would be paid for by the estate, provided you are acting prudently.

This is important as many executors get caught up, consumed, and often overwhelmed trying to do what is often confusing, complex and fraught with physical tasks, many of which can erode the health of the executor.

In our experience, people choose executors they feel have the judgment, and character to carry out their wishes, rather than choosing executors on their ability to lift heavy objects and clean really well. The role of an executor is not to clean the house, take things to donation, or personally check on the house each day.

Gordon’s supports the executor by providing professional advice and services, to carry out the required tasks and reduce the burden of managing the estate.

“Your company was recommended by the funeral home to help deal with our mother's estate. Gordon's offered just what we needed at the time. Someone who could help with cleaning out her home, and create a plan to sell the home as quickly as possible. We're amazed they were able to do all of this in such a short time, because of Gordon's our family was able to move forward.”
- Michael, Estate Trustee

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