Practice Areas

Estate Administration and Probate

Estate Administration and Probate

Understanding the role of a personal representative/executor

When you die, all your assets and debts become part of your estate. Once your debts have been paid any assets left over will be distributed to your heirs, which is why it is important to name a Personal Representative (PR), formerly known as an Executor. Appointing someone to administer your estate in your Last Will and Testament ensures your final wishes are respected.

What is the difference between a Personal Representative and Executor?

A Testator is someone who makes a Will. When you are drafting this document, you will choose a PR. Both an Executor and a Personal Representative are tasked with the same duties. It is just a matter of legal terminology. Prior to 2012 in Alberta, the term Executor was used. However, when the province updated estate legislation the term Personal Representative was introduced.

To ensure your final wishes are met it is wise to draft a Will and appoint someone you trust to be your Personal Representative. If you do not leave a Will, a judge can appoint a person, an institution such as a bank or a combination of both.

Both Executor and Personal Representative have the same powers as you did while you were living and will be responsible for listing your debts and assets and distributing your estate to your beneficiaries in accordance with Alberta's Estate Administration Act.

How is My Estate Administered?

If you have a Will at the time of your death it means you have died testate. The distribution of your estate will be governed by the terms of your Will and the applicable law.

Depending on the circumstances and your assets, the Court may need to issue a Grant of Probate. This is an order to confirm the Personal Representatives named in your Will are the proper people to administer your estate. A Grant of Probate gives your PR the legal right to handle your assets, which can include bank accounts, investments or any property.

However, if you die without leaving a Will, you have died intestate, and the distribution of your estate will be governed by Part 3 of Alberta’s Wills and Succession Act – Distribution of Intestate Estates.

Taking the time now to consult with a lawyer to make a plan is important because it ensures you have the final say in who you want to administer your estate.

Does My Estate Need to be Administered?

Not all estates are administered. That will depend on the property and debts in the estate.

Your property may fall inside the estate or outside the estate. Property outside the estate is transferred directly to someone without estate administration. For example, if you owned property jointly with someone that property would automatically go to the surviving owner.

Property inside the estate may require administration if there are no surviving joint owners or if there are no beneficiary designations on financial accounts.

It is in your best interest to seek legal advice to determine if you should administer an estate.

We can Assist your Personal Representative

Our experienced team has the expertise to guide your Personal Representatives in all aspects of the administration of your Estate including:

Our experienced team has the expertise to guide your Personal Representatives in all aspects of the administration of your Estate including:

  • advising Personal Representatives of their duties relating to the administration of an Estate;
  • preparation of applications for various types of grants (probate, administration, limited grants, resealing of foreign grants, etc.);
  • applications for advice and direction of the Court;
  • applications for rectification of a Will, validation of a non-compliant Will, and interpretation of a Will;
  • assisting Personal Representatives to carry out their duties, including, but not limited to, locating assets, debts and/or beneficiaries of an Estate, administration of the Estate, administration of mines and minerals interests, advising and managing ongoing trusts, structuring agreements for the administration and/or distribution of family businesses, reporting to the beneficiaries, and passing of accounts; and
  • referrals to other professionals and service providers that can assist Personal Representatives in carrying out their tasks/duties throughout the administration of the Estate.

Occasionally, disputes or questions arise so we can also assist Personal Representatives with applications to the Court for advice and direction, and any disputes or litigation.