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You’ve been named Executor, now what?



If you’ve been assigned as Executor of a loved one’s estate, understanding your role can be overwhelming. For most Executors, who may also be navigating their way through the sadness and grief that typically accompanies a loss, having a detailed checklist to refer to can be a huge asset.


We have complied the following list of items to work toward as you perform your duties as Executor.


1. Secure all property listed under the estate, this means ensuring property is protected by checking or changing locks and arranging for property insurance if necessary.

2. Determine if there are any safety deposit boxes and locate the key(s) if you don’t have them in your possession.

3. Work with an estate lawyer to obtain notarized copies of the death certificate, you will need these to close out various accounts. Your lawyer can also give you advice on whether you will need the assistance of an accountant to settle the estate.

4. Collect any outstanding life insurance policies and notify the insurance company of your loved one’s death, you will need to forward along one of the notarized death certificates in order to have the benefit paid out.

5. Notify all other insurance companies including house, car and any other policy issuant of the death, ensure that specific insurances for outstanding assets remains intact until they are delivered to their chosen recipients.

6. Determine if there are interests or partnerships in companies and provide any agreements or terms to your lawyer for analysis and next steps.

7. Provide the last few years’ income tax returns to your lawyer and/or accountant to ensure that no filing dates are missed. Taxes for the year of the person’s death will still need to be filed, on time. Any penalties incurred as a result of late filing may fall to the Executor to reconcile.

8. From the estate, ensure that funeral costs are covered, this is likely one of the first debts you settle as Executor of the estate.

9. Then make a list of all other outstanding debts, including credit card balances, utility bills, tax arrears, loans, leases or marital obligations, provide the list to your lawyer.


10. To ensure all beneficiaries are paid out appropriately, you may need to open a bank account in the name of the estate. You will need a copy of the Will and death certificate to do this. It is advised to open a chequing account to allow for beneficiary payment verification should it be required to settle the estate.

11. Once all debts are settled, the remainder of the estate will be allocated according to the terms of the Will.

12. Your lawyer will determine whether or not you will need to file for Probate, meaning whether court proceedings are necessary to settle the remainder of the estate.


This is not meant to be a complete list as every case is different, but it should give you a general idea of your role as Executor and what will be expected. In Nova Scotia, you have one year from your loved one’s death to settle their estate.


For a printable version of this check list, click here.


If you have additional questions about your role as Executor, please reach out, we’d be happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.

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