Estate Administration in Alberta: Frequently Asked Questions

By Shelly Chamaschuk, Team Leader of Wills, Estates & Trusts

Planning your estate can be an emotional process. Yet, it can be empowering to feel that your family, your business, and your affairs will be taken care of. Many of our Estate Planning clients have questions about how their estate will be handled when they are gone. In this post, we address some common questions related to estate administration.

Question #1: What is probate?

Probate is a legal process where the personal representative named in the Will (also called an executor) applies to the court to have the Will proven as valid and confirms the personal representative’s authority to administer the estate. Not all estates require that a grant of probate be issued. Whether probate is required can be a complex issue and the personal representative may need to seek legal advice to determine if probate is required in the circumstances of that estate. Generally, probate is usually required where the deceased owned land registered solely in his or her name, or where financial and investment institutions require a grant of probate before releasing money or property to the personal representative.

Question #2: What is involved in administering an estate?

Your personal representative has many duties including:

  • Making funeral arrangements;
  • Identifying all property owned by you and all of your debts;
  • Administering and managing the estate property;
  • Paying your debts and obligations, and those of your estate; and
  • Ascertaining your directions and intentions as set out in your Will and distributing the estate property to the beneficiaries as your Will directs.

Question #3: How long does estate administration take?

The duration of time varies with the size and complexity of the estate. Common issues that arise and may create delays are:

  • Difficulty in locating the beneficiaries named in the Will, if there is one, or the persons entitled to inherit under provincial law where there is no Will;
  • Determining what debts are proper debts of the estate and must be paid;
  • Preparing and filing income tax returns; and
  • Settling claims on the estate property.

The personal representative is required to distribute the estate property as soon as practicable. In most simple estates, the bulk of the assets can be distributed within the first year of death.

Question #4: Who is responsible for administering an estate?

Where the deceased left a valid Will that appoints a personal representative (also called an executor), the person named in the Will has the authority to administer the Estate. If the deceased did not have a valid Will, provincial legislation sets out a list of individuals who have the right to apply to the court to be appointed as the administrator of the estate.

Question #5: What should I know about probate fees and estate taxes for Albertans?

There are no probate fees or estate taxes levied on deceased Alberta residents or their property situated in Alberta. Probate fees or estate taxes are levied in some other Canadian and US jurisdictions.

If you are currently planning your estate, or if you are a personal representative in need of guidance, contact our team. We are leaders in estate planning, estate administration and estate management.

This post is meant to provide information regarding the administration of an estate and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a lawyer or an accountant for further advice. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law applicable to estate administration may cause the information in this post to be outdated.