Settling an estate: Beware! Slippery slope ahead!

settling an estate

Settling an estate can be done on your own, but be sure you are aware of what is involved and take the time to consider your options. Let’s take a deeper look into what exactly is involved in settling an estate and what kind of support is available.

Planning out the steps involved in settling an estate

You could save yourself many headaches by having a good understanding of the steps involved in settling an estate and the order in which to perform them. Save time and energy by knowing what needs to be done, and when. For instance, there is no sense in trying to open an estate account before you have the required documentation. Here are the steps in the proper order:

Step 1: Conduct a will search

This search must be performed through the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Barreau du Québec. If you choose to do this yourself, it can be quite lengthy. A notary can carry out both searches at once and save you lots of time. Keep in mind that will searches are mandatory, even when the deceased does not have a will.

Step 2: Create an estate account

Once you receive the result of the will search, you can make an appointment with the deceased’s financial institution to open an estate account. You will need the following:

  1. Will (if applicable)
  2. Will search result
  3. Copy of the Act of Death issued by the Registrar of Civil Status.

Additional steps based on the situation of the deceased

Here are a few important questions to ask yourself before moving forward with settling an estate.

  1. Did the deceased own one or more properties? Were they rentals?
  2. Did the deceased own one or more businesses? Did he or she own shares in one or more businesses?
  3. Did the deceased have any children under his or her care?
  4. Did the deceased own a vehicle registered under his or her name?
  5. Did the deceased have any market securities or investments?

Answering these questions helps guide the next steps in the process.

When is the estate truly settled?

Once all of this is complete, the last step involves filing the final tax return of the deceased. You must then pay any unpaid taxes, or overpayments are reimbursed. Once the financial authorities deem the file complete, you can then request a Clearance Certificate, which acts as a formal acknowledgement of the settlement of the estate.

Generally speaking, it takes approximately one year to settle an estate without any major issues. While some steps—including life insurance payments or television service cancellation—can be done quite fast, others require more patience. Steps involving government authorities can take quite some time. Keep in mind that the Registrar of Civil Status handles upwards of 5,000 requests per month relating to the 60,000 deaths recorded every year in Quebec.

Asking for help can help you avoid many worries

Even if you are familiar with the steps and the order in which they are to be carried out, turning to a notary for guidance is often a good idea, and well worth the price. When it comes to settling an estate, the potential additional expenses that may arise if you choose to do it on your own far outweigh those if you seek assistance from the very beginning.

With the numerous grieving families we have met over the years, we have come to understand that even the “simplest” of estates can have underlying problems. Choosing not to place this burden on the shoulders of the executor can be a wise decision.

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