5 Considerations for Estate Trustees
Estate trustees can have a difficult task ahead of them, especially when it comes to the administration of complex estates. While the following list is not exhaustive, it outlines some questions for individuals to consider when acting as estate trustees.
- How much do you expect to get paid? Estate trustees are entitled to compensation that is a “fair and reasonable allowance for the care, pains and trouble, and the time expended in and about the estate”. While there is no statutory calculation for trustee compensation, section 62(1) of the Trustee Act allows a judge to determine what is allowed.
- How far do you need go to find beneficiaries? Section 24(1) of the Estates Administration Act requires a trustee to make reasonable inquiries for persons who may be entitled by virtue of a relationship traced through a birth outside marriage. In situations such as an intestacy or where beneficiaries are not specifically named in a will, this can be an onerous task complicated by geography, language and family dynamics. Doreen So previously blogged about searching for beneficiaries here.
- Who needs to be served? When applying for probate, an estate trustee must issue an application to the court and serve all persons entitled to a share in the distribution of the estate. This is governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure. Of note is the provision that if a person entitled to a share is less than 18 years of age, notice of the application is to be served on the Children`s Lawyer. The Children’s Lawyer is also to be served in circumstances involving unborn and/or unascertained beneficiaries.
- When can you start distributing assets? While estate trustees need to be prudent about their distribution responsibilities, there may be factors that prevent the early distribution of estate assets. For example, s. 6(14) of the Ontario Family Law Act prevents the distribution of a deceased spouse`s estate within 6 months of the spouse`s death without consent in writing from the surviving spouse or court authorization.
- What is worth keeping? When it comes to cleaning out a deceased`s papers and personal effects, there may be a fine line between valuable items and junk. In the case of items such as photographs, letters and documents that beneficiaries do not want, do the items have any significance? When items possibly have historic or academic value, estate trustees may consider canvassing options of donation to university archives or libraries.
Thank you for reading.