Fundamentals of Estate Administration – Hull on Estates and Succession Planning #210
Listen to: Fundamentals of Estate Administration
This week on Hull on Estates and Succession Planning Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag discuss the process of personal estate administration and what to expect.
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Suzana Popovic-Montag – Click here for more information on Suzana Popovic-Montag.
Welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast you’re listening to will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada. From the offices of Hull & Hull in Toronto, here are Ian and Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. You’re listening to episode 210 of our podcast.
Ian Hull: Hi Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi there Ian. How are you today?
Ian Hull: I’m great. Welcome back.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Thank you very much.
Ian Hull: You’ve been much missed.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Once again, you’ve been holding down the fort, so I appreciate that.
Ian Hull: We’re very excited because we have books behind us now.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s right.
Ian Hull: There’s been some chatter at us that we don’t have books behind us and now we have books, like good lawyers books too. Ones that aren’t really ever read.
Alright, so today we wanted to talk about and do a little bit of a mini-series on administration and estate administrations. I have actually just lived through a personal estate administration. My Dad passing away in the fall before Christmas and I have done the…worked with our law clerk and done his estate administration. It was a bit of an eye-opener when it hits you personally, it affects you personally. It’s more than just paper and ink on the page. But…so we thought we’d try to talk a little bit about what can you expect, what is there to expect and some of the fundamentals. Almost an estate administration from A – Z.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And it’s a very difficult time, as we know, that people are dealing with. You know, the last thing, the grieving process that comes with it and so to the extent that maybe you can hear what the process entails in advance, at least once before, I think that might help people generally to be able to deal with these situations down the road.
Ian Hull: Absolutely. And there’s really…you know, it’s nice in some ways because it’s not an excessive, contentious environment. It’s typically…there’s lots of stress and lots of sadness and so on. But it’s typically dealing with things almost in a business-like, in a matter-of-fact way. Tensions rise and fall but we’re not talking about litigation issues. We’re just talking about the pure administration issues. How do you deal with an estate once someone passes away?
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And the first thing that most people will do is they’ll actually consult a lawyer to see what it is that an estate administration entails. And in cases where there is a Will, they’ll bring a Will with them or they’ll inquire of a lawyer that they know that was representing the deceased at some point, whether or not they have a Will. And in other cases, they will have no Will to deal with and just have to deal with what we call an intestacy here in Ontario.
Ian Hull: Absolutely. So let’s talk about the client who comes in and sits across the other side of your desk and says listen, my uncle has passed away. What do you need to know? Here’s a Will and I need to administer the estate. Let’s talk about really specifically. I mean, starting right from the first question, you know, I mean in terms of order, who cares. But one of the first questions you’re gonna ask is, well we want to know the full name of your uncle. If it’s John Smith, that needs to be further particularized because there’s a few John Smith’s out there.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s right. And if he or she had a particular nickname or was known by another name other than John Smith, that also has to be flushed out because we’ll include that ultimately in the application when we apply for probate if in fact we do, or when we start dealing with the estate administration.
Ian Hull: That’s right. So actually, the full name, for once in your life, really does matter. And, of course, as you say nicknames or also known as, are very important.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And dates are also important. Clearly the date of death will be the easy one but dates of birth, dates of birth of people who are named in the Will, if they’re minor children, will also be very important. So it’s part of that information gathering process to determine who the beneficiaries are, their names, their particulars, their addresses and background information to them as well.
Ian Hull: And the place of death is important. And what we call the occupancy, the domicile of the person, the individual, is very important because for example in Ontario, it matters what jurisdiction you can even apply for probate.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And when you say, Ian, jurisdiction for applying for probate, you’re referring to what in particular?
Ian Hull: Well, the difference is they used to call it the counties. What ranges, what sections of the province do you have to operate out of. For example, if they die in Toronto, are you getting probate in Toronto or did they just come to Toronto to visit a hospital that they never made it out of. So they really, truly are from Barrie but they were here for 3 weeks and they died here. It can be…those kinds of tricky questions can matter because, for example, getting probate in Toronto might be a very different process in terms of administratively and technically, to a lawyer up in Barrie and vice versa, if we’re applying for probate up there. I mean there are general rules across the board, but you can run into quirks of each jurisdiction. And then, of course, time and delay in terms of when you’re gonna get probate is important too. Sometimes some jurisdictions are faster than others.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Right.
Ian Hull: And so picking your spot can have some impact. But you’re restricted by the statute as well.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And you don’t really want to spend a whole bunch of time trying to get probate in a jurisdiction only to find out that you can’t and then delay the process of applying to the proper place where the individual was actually last known or last resident at the time that they died.
Ian Hull: So true.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Another thing that we always have to find out is the occupation of the deceased and whether or not he or she was married, the status of their marriage, and information about spouses if and fact they have spouses as well.
Ian Hull: Yeah, because the spousal status, divorced or separated, matters. Different…we won’t get into all the machinations or the statutory rules, but obviously it matters if you’re married or you’re divorced or you’re separated. And there’s all sorts of different limitations on claims and there’s also types of claims that can be made, depending on this status. So the spousal status, in the grand term, not just married but living together and so forth, is an important thing to really drill down on. And come to the meeting with as much information as you have on it.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s right. And in those jurisdictions that recognize same-sex couples, we want to make sure that we’ve identified those relationships as well.
Ian Hull: And it’s interesting, too, because the whole idea of the relationship. You know, we started this illustration with our uncle died, for example. And we may not have known the particulars of my uncle’s social life. We may have known that he had a friend that came by every once and a while. But any information you have and details on that can be very important in terms of planning out the types of claims that might ultimately end up on the table later down the road, so there’s less surprises.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s right. And an easy illustration is one where, you know, a couple will break up and they’re always known as the “ex”. But they may only be separated and not actually formally divorced. And in our laws, that makes a big difference.
Ian Hull: That’s right. And the time of separation makes a huge difference in terms of how long they’ve been separated, types of claims that can be made. So any information you can get on that. And sometimes it’s as simple as, you know, just going through…if you’re the executor, going through the person’s personal effects. The next thing you want to talk about is bringing, for example, the Social Insurance Number. It’s a very important identification issue in terms of making the final applications when you’re making the probate. And so often I’ll say to my clients, well look, you know, was there a wallet or is there something? Because we want to make sure we get that insurance number. We want to make sure we cancel credit cards, and those kinds of things.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Yeah, and as quickly as possible, too.
Ian Hull: Terrific. Alright, well…so now that we’ve got sort of the basics of who we’re dealing with, the next question I like to always sort of dive into is, well what are we dealing with? And are we sure we’re dealing with the last Will, for example?
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And in our illustration you mentioned that we came in and we had a Will. In some cases, most people will know that a document entitled the “The Last Will and Testament” is probably the Will. But there are a lot of other documents, testamentary documents that might have an effect on an estate administration that someone may not recognize the importance of. And so as part of that process where an executor is going through the personal effects, gathering that kind of information and providing it to the lawyer and saying well look, does this mean anything? It may, in fact, be a very important part of the process.
Ian Hull: Well that’s great. And we really do press our clients back and sort of say well, wait a minute, have we got all the Wills? Have we got the Codicils too? Have you found any notes that may look Will-like and that sort of thing.
Alright, well, I mean from our perspective anyhow, we’ve got our client across the table. We’re starting to get information flowing with our client in terms of the fundamentals. And we’ll move on to our next podcast next week and talk a little bit more about some of the detail of what is it all about and how does an administration work and what can you expect.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Great. I’m looking forward to it, Ian. Thank you very much.
Ian Hull: Thanks Suzana.
You have been listening to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning by Ian
Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast that you have been listening
to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current
issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always speak with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstance.
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