How Estate Issues Must Be Managed In A Timely Manner

If you are the estate trustee (commonly referred to as an executor), one of the first things that must be done is to find the deceased person’s assets.

Often, if the estate is substantial, there will be a professional, such as an accountant or investment counselor, who has knowledge of the testator’s assets, and is able to assist in locating them. In the case of a smaller estate, this may not be the case. If you are the estate trustee it is your obligation to determine what the assets are as soon as reasonably possible, especially if some assets need to be dealt with right away. You should also make an application for a Certificate of Estate Trustee through a lawyer, who will help you with a checklist of what must be done. I would say that, if you are hesitating to make an application because you don’t think there’s going to be any kind of contentious issues, you should still do it. Many times people think if the deceased person has a joint bank account, for example, that there is automatically a right of survivorship, and that nothing has to be done with the account, but that is not necessarily the case. If nothing else, tax returns will have to be filed, or perhaps house will have to be sold, so it is important to have a grasp of all of the person’s assets and what your responsibilities are.

If you are the beneficiary under a will, and you feel that the estate trustee is not acting properly, you should also not delay going to a lawyer about your concerns. People sometimes delay taking this action because they don’t want to appear greedy, or as if they didn’t care about the person who has passed away, or perhaps they don’t want to confront the estate trustee, who may be a close family member or friend. People often try to work this out with a family member but this can lead to upset emotions that can change what were once positive relationships. This is a good time to ask a lawyer to intervene instead because a lawyer can take some of the emotional component out of the situation. If I am retained by a concerned beneficiary in such cases, I will often explain to an estate trustee that the beneficiary has hired me not because of anything personal against the estate trustee but because my client just wants to have someone who is more detached emotionally explain his or her concerns, and attempt to resolve them to everyone’s satisfaction.

If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with litigation law issues in the Toronto, Ontario Region, contact Steinberg, Morton, Hope & Israel LLP for a consultation.

This article is taken from a January 15, 2010 interview with David A. Brooker, litigation Lawyer with Steinberg Morton, Hope & Israel LLP, a Toronto Litigation Law Firm and is not intended as, nor should be taken to be, legal advice or opinion. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.