The job of the executor is not an easy one. Perhaps one of the most difficult jobs is determining what the deceased owned and what they owed. In order to find that information, we have complied a list of the most common ways to search:
1. Real Estate:
Search title to any real estate the deceased owned or had an interest in – once the extent of the deceased’s ownership interest is known, then obtain an appraisal of the property (preferably by a licensed appraiser). A title search will also reveal mortgages or loans owing against the property and who/which financial institutions the money is owed to. You can then write to those institutions in order to determine if the mortgage is life insured and/or to request a mortgage/payout statement identifying the total sum owing on the deceased’s date of death.
Search through the deceased’s documentation and computer to determine what banks accounts and investments the deceased owned. If this is not locatable, then write to each bank in the vicinity of where the deceased lived to determine if the deceased had accounts/investments with those institutions. It is unlikely the banking institutions will speak with the executor over the phone therefore letters to those institutions is a crucial first step. If you need help with a template for drafting such a letter, click here.
3. Household Items/Personal Effects
Because the executor is ultimately accountable for all assets, the whereabouts of all assets and the eventual division of those assets among beneficiaries, it is extremely important that the executor take an inventory of the deceased’s home as soon as possible after death and secure the home and assets. Household goods, clothing and jewelry must all be collected, valued, disposed of and/or placed in safe keeping. The value attributed to these items, for the purposes of probate, is the amount that could be expected if the items were sold (not their replacement or insurance values).
4. Digital Assets
It becomes a lot more difficult to discover what assets and liabilities a deceased had if that person did everything electronically. Without the deceased keeping a log book with passwords, there is no easy solution to discovering and accessing this information.
Unless you know the full extent of the deceased's debts, you should advertise for creditors in accordance with Rule 38 of Alberta's Surrogate Court Rules. Otherwise, you could find yourself personally liable for the debts of the deceased if you distribute the estate and a creditor appears. If you need a template for creating such a notice (called a Notice to Creditors and Claimants) click here.
If you need help with any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact our office as one of our Certified Executor Advisors would be happy to help.
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