Once the funeral arrangements have been made and all interested parties informed of the death, one of the first things the executor must do is deal with the bank accounts of the deceased:
- Finding out what banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions the deceased dealt with, notifying them that you are the executor, and determining the details of assets in all accounts.
- Accessing all safety deposit boxes and listing their contents. You will probably have to show the banks the will and death certificate.
(Note: the term “personal representative” is the current legal term used to refer to an executor/executrix, administrator/administratix, and judicial trustee.)
When you have informed the financial institutions that you are the executor, the accounts will be frozen and most transactions may only be processed with your approval. Financial institutions will allow certain payments such as funeral expenses, payments necessary for maintaining certain assets, and expenses related to the administration of the estate. The allowance of other payments will depend on the financial institution.
You should also ask the financial institutions for lists of past transactions in the bank accounts and credit card accounts. This will assist in identifying:
- Transactions for services that need to be cancelled, like utility services, insurance payments, or subscriptions
- Creditors of the deceased
Once you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration, you will have the same authority to manage the accounts as the deceased would have had if still alive. If the value of bank account is small, according to the definition of the financial institution involved, the funds may be released without the need to obtain a grant.
The Estate Account
It is important to open an estate bank account because, as an executor, you are not allowed to mix estate transactions with your own personal transactions. The account will be in your name, in trust for the estate. It will be used to deposit funds payable to the deceased, such as:
- Refunds for prepayments of cancelled services
- Payments of death benefits or pension plans (but only for the month of death)
- Funds received from the sale of estate assets
- Proceeds from insurance policies or an RRSP
This account will also be used to pay for disbursements.