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When a person writes their will, they usually choose someone to be their personal representative, also known as an executor. To settle the estate, the executor:
- makes burial arrangements
- pays outstanding bills with the deceased person’s money
- sells their property
- files a tax return
- takes care of any other final tasks
If there’s no will or if the executor doesn’t act, someone else, such as a family member, or the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) may go to court for authorization to settle the estate.
Beneficiary is a minor or represented adult
The public trustee may be needed to administer an estate when:
- the beneficiary is a minor or represented adult who has a guardian, trustee, co-decision-maker or personal directive agent, and
- no appropriate person or corporation is found to handle the estate
Legislation about estates and wills:
Public trustee involvement
If someone dies and next-of-kin can’t be found, the OPGT may be notified by one of these organizations:
- medical examiner
- funeral home
The OPGT gets involved if:
- a beneficiary is under the age of 18, or
- a beneficiary is an adult who doesn’t have the mental capacity to make decisions and they have a court-appointed public trustee
Public trustee administered estates
If the public trustee administers an estate, the OPGT will:
- deal with urgent issues first, like the care of pets or livestock
- make burial arrangements
- locate and take control of the person’s assets, like bank accounts and property
- keep sentimental items, like photographs, war medals and diplomas, for the family, whenever possible
- pay debts and file income tax returns
- look for beneficiaries
- distribute any inheritance
Beneficiaries of a public trustee administered estate
Contact the OPGT immediately if you think:
- we’re administering the estate
- you’re entitled to receive money or other assets from an estate administered by the public trustee
- there are sentimental items you want to keep so they aren’t liquidated
- all requests will be considered
Be ready to:
- tell us the deceased person’s name
- provide us with the file name, if you have it
- respond to our requests quickly
- show us your birth or baptismal certificate, that has your place and date of birth, and your parents’ names
- give us your social insurance number for tax purposes
- tell us immediately if there are assets that should be distributed ‘as is’ rather than liquidated
- be patient; it takes time to properly administer an estate
If a beneficiary can’t be found
If there’s money in an estate administered by the public trustee and the beneficiaries can’t be found, the funds will eventually go to Alberta’s provincial treasurer.
If beneficiaries are found later, they can still get the money.
The OPGT charges fees to help offset the cost of settling an estate. Fees may change without notice.