Executor Conundrums…What does “Probate” Mean?

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By Soni Nayak

You are an executor of an estate and you have just been advised by a financial institution that in order for you to deal with the estate funds you need to obtain probate….PROBATE is a big word and simply put it means “the official proving of a will”. In order to “prove a will” in Alberta, an executor must complete a grant of probate application and submit this application to the Court of Queen’s Bench along with the original Last Will and Testament of the deceased. This formal process is a protection for not only you as executor but also beneficiaries (those benefiting from the estate) who are named in the Last Will and Testament of the deceased. Once the process is complete the court will issue a Grant of Probate document. This is an official court document appointing you as the executor of the deceased’s estate. You are probably wondering…why does the financial institution need a Grant of Probate when I can produce the original Last Will and Testament (“will”) that clearly names me as the executor? Good question….let’s approach that from the financial institutions point of view. You walk into a financial institution (even when it is a financial institution that you regularly do your personal business at) with the original will and identification and request the estate funds be paid to you as the executor. The financial institution (even if the staff knows you personally) has no way of knowing if the Last Will and Testament you present is valid or if it is being challenged or if it has been revoked. The financial institution has a duty to obtain the official court document proving you to be the executor and eliminating the financial institution’s risk of having the funds end up in the wrong person’s hands. The financial institution is not suggesting you are the wrong person but they do not have the processes available to them to navigate the legalities…that is what the court process is for. Once the financial institution is presented with the official court document (Grant of Probate) their risks are alleviated and they can safely take your instructions as the executor of the estate. Being an executor of an estate is a big job that comes with a lot of responsibility. As the executor you are taking over the life the deceased built and you are obligated to make the funeral arrangements, secure assets, pay debts, manage beneficiaries…and the list goes on. The deceased’s will is meant to guide you but ultimately you are the sole decision maker. Managing our own lives and affairs can be daunting…managing someone else’s can be even more so. SN Law Office is here to help! We can assist every step of the way by providing you with a “Where Do I Begin Executor Checklist”; preparing court documents and navigating you through the probate process; to ultimately winding up and distributing the estate in accordance with the will.

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