Personal representatives manage the affairs of deceased individuals according to the instructions left in their will.
This can become complex as the correct legal processes must be navigated.
Part of this process is probate, where the court provides official validation of a will and allows the administration process to formally proceed.
If you are a nominated personal representative charged with administering a will, the probate experts at Vest Estate Lawyers LLP can help you manage the process efficiently and without delays.
How can a probate lawyer in Calgary help your family?
A probate lawyer or estate lawyer helps settle a deceased person’s estate.
Responsibilities for a personal representative at the time of a person’s death are numerous. They include identifying and disposing of any land, money, and possessions, settling any outstanding debts or taxes, paying inheritances, and providing for the care of the deceased’s dependents, if applicable.
This is a considerable responsibility that can also leave you liable for any unpaid debts from the deceased person’s estate.
Sometimes, it makes sense for a personal representative to seek the assistance of a probate lawyer to facilitate and oversee the process, starting with the application for the grant of probate from the Alberta courts.
Making the probate application in Alberta
Before any bequeathed property in a will can be transferred to beneficiaries in Alberta, the will must pass probate. This means that you, as the personal representative, must apply to the court to validate the will for authenticity and legal accuracy.
This provides a type of legal “seal of approval” that the personal representative named in the will is qualified to distribute the deceased’s assets and that the process will be transparent and fair according to their last wishes.
To apply for probate, all the necessary information regarding the deceased persons’ estate must be gathered together. This can be quite a task in itself if the estate is large. Then it must be submitted with the correct documentation to the court in the judicial district where the deceased person lived.
How long does it take to receive a grant of probate?
Alberta law requires personal representatives to deal with the will as soon as it is practicable. Delays are inadvisable.
Beneficiaries of the will must await the grant of probate before the personal representative can transfer assets. It can take from one or two weeks to two months for the file to be reviewed by the courts.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to apply for a limited grant of probate. This is normally a quicker process, enabling you to deal with one part of the estate (such as the family home) before distributing the rest.
If there are inaccuracies in the application, the grant of probate could be rejected. You will need to fix the issues and resubmit the paperwork.
Is a grant of probate always necessary in Alberta?
In some cases, no grant of probate is necessary for a personal representative to manage the estate of a deceased person. For instance, certain assets placed in trusts avoid the probate process altogether.
However, a grant of probate is necessary if:
- Real estate was owned either alone or jointly by the deceased
- The deceased possessed considerable assets and/or a complex estate
- Financial institutions require probate to release assets
- A dispute arises among beneficiaries over the distribution of assets or the validity of the will
What happens if there is no will or the will is invalid in Alberta?
If somebody dies intestate (i.e., without writing a will), you may apply to the court for a grant of administration. The court can then name up to three administrators to manage the estate.
Only certain individuals can be authorized as court-appointed administrators according to Alberta estate law. The list in order of preference is:
- Spouses or partners
- Children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren
- Nieces or nephews who are named beneficiaries
- Next of kin who are named beneficiaries;
- A person with an interest in the estate because of a relationship with the deceased
- A claimant against the estate
- The Government of Alberta
If a personal representative is named in a will but that person is unwilling or unable to perform the duty (and there is no substitute representative named) the court may need to determine who to appoint as administrator for the estate.
If the will is contested during the probate process (for instance, if the presence of another will is claimed), there may need to be a court hearing to settle the dispute.
A probate lawyer from Vest Estate Lawyers LLP can help in each of the above scenarios as well as during the process of probating a will.
What happens after probate has been granted?
After probate is granted, the responsibilities of the personal representative begin in earnest.
Executing the will
Once you have the grant of probate, you can legally start distributing the assets to beneficiaries according to the instructions in the will.
This can be complex if the estate is sizeable, considerable debts are outstanding or many beneficiaries or creditors exist. With many individuals now holding digital assets, the process can be further complicated.
The role of personal representative generally involves locating and contacting beneficiaries, transferring property, notifying insurance companies and the holders of assets, distributing assets, completing tax returns, and paying debts.
It can take weeks or even months to fully execute an estate, depending on its complexity, the type of assets involved, how cooperative the beneficiaries are, and other factors.
The process should not be rushed. It is important to get everything right so that the estate is administered accurately according to the deceased person’s wishes and within the law. Read more about the process of executing a will here.
What are the probate fees in Alberta?
The maximum probate fee in Alberta is currently $525. This is for the largest estates. Smaller estates can expect to pay less for probate.
Other fees apply for the forms and applications required to probate the estate. These generally range from $35 to $250 but a full list of probate fees can be found here.
As well as the official court fees, your lawyers will charge a fee for their assistance.
Probating a will in Calgary
If you want to inquire about probate, apply for probate or begin executing a will, the probate experts at Vest Estate Lawyers in Calgary can help you navigate the responsibilities, starting with a free consultation.