Administering an estate is a legal matter.  OPGT cannot provide legal advice. You may want to contact a lawyer to discuss specific questions or receive assistance with the administration process. If you do not have a lawyer, contact the Law Society of Alberta’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Burial or funeral arrangements

Right to make arrangements

The people with the right to make funeral arrangements and deal with a deceased person’s remains are:

  • a named executor
  • family
  • friends

The Funeral Services General Regulations provides a priority list of who has the authority to make funeral arrangements.

You may wish to contact a lawyer if you have any questions about authority.

Funeral costs

The estate of the deceased person is responsible for paying for burial and funeral expenses.  The personal representative or executor of the estate is responsible for arranging this but family or friends may do so if there is no personal representative or executor.

The deceased persons’ bank may consider advancing funds from a deceased person’s bank account directly to the funeral home for funeral costs. The personal representative will need to contact the deceased person’s bank to inquire.

If the deceased person does not have sufficient funds to pay for funeral and burial costs, funeral benefits may be provided by Community and Social Services.

  • The personal representative or executor of the estate should advise the funeral home that the deceased is unlikely to have sufficient funds to pay for the funeral.
  • The funeral home will submit the application to Community and Social Services.

The Public Trustee cannot arrange for someone to be reimbursed for funeral expenses, unless the Public Trustee is administering the estate.

Administering an estate

Locating a will

There is no will registry in Alberta.

Many people keep their will in a safe place, such as:

  • a locked cabinet
  • a safe
  • a safety deposit box at their bank
  • with a trusted third party, such as a lawyer

The Public Trustee may store a will for safekeeping if:

  • the will belongs to a Public Trustee client, or
  • the will names the Public Trustee as personal representative

If the deceased person owned property outside of Alberta and had an international will, their will may be registered with the Office of the Public Trustee. The registry contains information about who to contact regarding locating the will. It does not contain the original or a copy of an international will.

When there is a will

When a person writes their will, they usually choose someone to be their personal representative – the executor. A request for a grant of probate is used to ask the court to confirm that the person named in the will has the authority to administer the estate.  You may wish to contact a lawyer to provide assistance with determining if a grant is required.

Forms to apply for a grant of probate can be found online or you may wish to have a lawyer assist you.  The Public Trustee cannot provide assistance with applications for a grant.

Questions about the capacity of a person to write a will, or the validity of a current will are legal matters that the Public Trustee cannot assist with. You may want to discuss these questions with a lawyer.

If you do not have a lawyer, contact the Law Society of Alberta’s Lawyer Referral Service.

When there is no will

If there is no will or if the executor does not act, someone else, such as a family member, may go to court for authorization to settle the estate by requesting a grant of administration.

The Public Trustee will only consider administering an estate if a minor, or a Represented Adult client of the Public Trustee, is a beneficiary of the estate, the estate is solvent (more assets than debts), and no other party is administering.

Forms to apply for a grant of administration can be found online or you may wish to have a lawyer assist you.

If you do not have a lawyer, contact the Law Society of Alberta’s Lawyer Referral Service.

If no one steps forward to deal with a deceased person’s property

The Public Trustee will not act to clear a deceased person’s property unless the Public Trustee is administering the estate.

The Public Trustee will only consider administering an estate if a minor, or a Represented Adult client of the Public Trustee, is a beneficiary of the estate and no other party is administering.

Landlords may wish to contact a lawyer to discuss their responsibilities when dealing with the property of a deceased tenant if no one steps forward to administer their estate.

Tasks of a personal representative

To administer the estate, the main tasks of a personal representative are to:

  • identify the estate assets and liabilities
  • administer and manage the estate
  • satisfy the debts and obligations of the estate, and
  • distribute and account for the administration of the estate

Additional information can be found in the Estate Administration Act.

If you need assistance with administering an estate, please contact a lawyer. This is particularly important if the estate is contentious or complicated. This occurs most frequently but is not limited to estates involving real estate, investments or corporations.

Finding out who is administering an estate

If someone claims to be administering the estate, they will have documentation verifying this–usually a grant or will. It is reasonable to request to see the document before you share information about the estate with them.

You can also contact the Court of Queen’s Bench closest to where the deceased lived before they died to ask if any grants have been issued for the deceased person’s estate if the person is not willing to share the document with you. You may be required to pay a fee for this service.

The Public Trustee is not able to confirm who is administering the estate, unless the Public Trustee is administering the estate.

Does an estate need to be administered

Not all estates are administered.  Whether or not you decide to administer an estate depends on the property and debts in the estate.

A deceased person’s property may fall “inside the estate” or “outside the estate”.

Property outside the estate transfers directly to another person without estate administration. Two examples of when property may fall outside the estate are:

  • the deceased chose a specific person to be the beneficiary on specific property, such as a beneficiary designation on an investment
  • the deceased owned property jointly with someone and the property automatically falls to the surviving owner

Property inside the estate is the opposite and the estate may require administration.

  • There are no beneficiary designations on financial accounts.
  • There are no surviving joint owners on the property.

Contact a lawyer if you need assistance determining whether you should administer an estate.

Vehicles

Contact a local registry office for questions about dealing with a deceased person’s vehicle.

Creditors

A personal representative who chooses to administer an estate must satisfy the debts and obligations of the estate if the estate has funds to do so.

If no one else is administering the estate, creditors can also choose to apply to administer the estate themselves in order to collect on the debt.

You may wish to contact a lawyer if you have any questions about estate debts.

When a represented adult is a beneficiary

You must serve the trustee, not the represented adult.

The trustee is the only one who has the legal authority to:

  • receive the documents
  • determine if the represented adult has any other claims against the estate
  • sign a release
  • accept the represented adult’s share of the estate

When a minor is a beneficiary

The Public Trustee must review all grant applications in Alberta where a minor is a beneficiary of an estate.

The personal representative must provide the following to the OPGT office:

  • a copy of the grant application
  • a NC24.1 form (one form for each minor who is a beneficiary)

The Public Trustee will review the submitted documents and respond to the court.

Consent to Land transfers

The Public Trustee must consent to a transfer of land any time a minor has an interest in an estate, even if the transfer or sale of the land does not affect the gift received by the minor.

The personal representative must provide the following to the OPGT office:

  • a fully endorsed Transfer of Land
  • if the transfer or sale of the land affects the gift received by the minor, then the personal representative must also provide a recent certified appraisal regarding the market value of the property.

The Public Trustee will review the submitted documents and respond to the personal representative.  This review may take a week or more so the personal representative should ensure that the documents are submitted well in advance of any closing date.

Public Trustee administered estates

The Public Trustee will consider getting involved only if:

  • the estate is solvent – there are more assets than debts
  • no other person with a prior right to administer the estate is able and willing to administer the estate
  • a beneficiary is either
    • under the age or 18, or
    • a represented adult client of the Public Trustee

Deceased Estate Intake Referral Form

The Public Trustee does not become involved in family disputes or provide legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for assistance.

If the Public Trustee administers an estate, the Public Trustee will:

  • deal with urgent issues first, like the care of pets or livestock
  • make burial arrangements if they have not already been made
  • 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, including funeral costs and file income tax returns
  • look for beneficiaries
  • distribute the beneficiaries’ share

Beneficiaries of a Public Trustee administered estate

Contact the OPGT immediately if you think:

  • we are administering the estate
  • you are entitled to receive money or other assets from an estate administered by the Public Trustee

Be ready to:

  • tell us the deceased person’s name
  • provide us with the file number, if you have it
  • respond to our requests quickly
  • show us vital statistic documents to confirm kinship, such as your birth or baptismal certificate, that has your:
    • place and date of birth
    • your parents’ names
  • give us your social insurance number for tax purposes
  • be patient; it takes time to properly administer an estate

If a beneficiary cannot be found

If there is money in an estate administered by the Public Trustee, and the beneficiaries cannot be found, the funds will eventually go to Alberta’s provincial treasurer.

If beneficiaries are found later, they can still get their money.

Costs

The OPGT charges fees to help offset the cost of settling an estate. Fees may change without notice.

Concerns about how an estate is being administered

If you have concerns about how a personal representative is administering an estate, you may want to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your rights and what you can do to ensure your interests are protected.

The Public Trustee does not get involved in private disputes regarding estate administration.

Legislation

Legislation about estates, wills and funerals:

Publications

The Public Trustee as the Representative of a Deceased Person’s Estate

Contact

Find an OPGT office near you

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