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Estate settlement process

The estate settlement process is set out in the Civil Code of Quebec. Income tax laws (Income Tax Act (Canada) and Taxation Act (Quebec)) also have requirements with regards to estate settlement. Normally, the estate settlement process should resemble to the following:

  1. Find the testamentary dispositions and have the will probated
  2. Publish a notice of appointment of liquidator
  3. Inform the federal and provincial governments, financial institutions and service providers of the person's death
  4. Identify and contact the successors
  5. Obtain official documents
  6. Open an estate account
  7. Make an inventory of the deceased's property
  8. Publish a notice of closure of inventory
  9. File the deceased's federal and provincial income taxes and obtain clearances
  10. Pay the debts and legacies by particular title
  11. Partition the family patrimony and settle the matrimonial or civil union regime
  12. Establish a final account, publish a notice of closure of the estate account in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights (RPMRR) and distribute the deceased's property to the heirs

A great responsibility

The liquidator can be liable for damages incurred by the heirs if they can prove that the liquidator was negligent in the performance of his duties.

Also, by taking or failing to take certain actions, the heirs are automatically considered to have accepted the estate. Consequently, they are required to pay all of the estate's outstanding debts if:

  • the estate is settled without following the rules set out in the Civil Code of Quebec;
  • no notorial document indicates that a successor has refused the estate;
  • a successor uses property in the estate as if it were personal property;
  • the liquidator was not exempted from making an inventory of the estate's property;
  • the estate was not renounced within the prescribed time.
  1. Find the testamentary dispositions and have the will probated

    Only the most recent will has any legal value. You may be able to find it in the deceased's personal belongings, safety deposit box or at the Chambre des notaires du Québec (Register of Testamentary Dispositions and Mandates).

    Holograph wills and wills made before witnesses must be probated by the Superior Court. They can also be probated by a notary. The notorial will does not have to be probated. In any case, a will search must be conducted with the Chambre des notaires du Québec.

    Also, since the deceased may have included a testamentary disposition in his marriage or civil union contract, these documents should be examined. Moreover, if he was divorced or the civil union was dissolved, it is preferable to verify, with a legal advisor, the consequences this will bear on the deceased's wishes.

    If the deceased did not leave any testamentary dispositions or if they are incomplete, then the dispositions set out in the Civil Code of Quebec apply.

  2. Publish a notice of appointment of liquidator

    The purpose of this notice is to inform the heirs, creditors and debtors to the estate of the existence and identity of the liquidator. It is published in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights (RPMRR) as well as in the Land Register when the estate includes immovable property (land, buildings, etc.).

  3. Inform the federal and provincial governments, financial institutions and service providers of the person's death

    The liquidator must inform as soon as possible all service providers (telephone, electricity, cable, Internet, various subscriptions, etc.), financial institutions, government services (e.g.: Canada Revenue Agency, Revenu Québec) and the deceased's debtors of the date of the person's death.

  4. Identify and contact the successors

    Usually, the successors are identified in the will. If the deceased did not have a will or a marriage or civil union contract with a testamentary provision, or if the will is incomplete, the heirs will be determined in accordance to the Civil Code of Quebec. A Declaration of Legal Heirs, drawn up by a notary or lawyer, will make it possible to declare the identity of the deceased's heirs and often includes the appointment of the liquidator. This document is useful, even essential, in settling an estate without testamentary dispositions.

  5. Obtain official documents

    Only the death certificate and the copy of the act of death are legally recognized. The copy of the act of death serves as proof in the courts of law. These documents are usually required as proof of death by the governments, financial institutions or other. Make sure you request several copies.

    The marriage or civil union contract may include a testamentary provision, often referred to as the "surviving spouse" clause, or "conventional appointment".

    Other documents may also be necessary or useful, such as the deceased's birth certificate, decree of separation, decree of divorce, dissolution of civil union, life insurance policy, etc.

  6. Open an estate account

    To help manage the estate, it is important to open an estate account. Once the property has been distributed, the liquidator must close the estate account. Please contact your caisse to find out which documents are required to open an estate account.

  7. Make an inventory of the deceased's property

    The inventory of the deceased's property makes it possible to know, among other things, if the deceased's total debts exceed the total assets. To do so, the liquidator must trace the deceased's assets and debts. He must list and figure the deceased's total assets (e.g.: RRSPs, RRIFs, URCs, LIFs, pension fund). If applicable, he must obtain the financial statements of the deceased's company, the deceased's partnership agreement and any other related document.

    The liquidator cannot be exempt from making the inventory UNLESS all the heirs and successors agree to it. In that case, the heirs are liable for the estate's debts in excess of the value of the property they inherit.

  8. Publish a notice of closure of inventory

    This notice identifies the deceased and indicates where interested parties (heirs, successors, legatees by particular title, and debtors) can look up the estate's inventory of property. Afterward, the liquidator must inform these interested parties of the registration and of the place where the inventory can be consulted. The notice is published in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights (RPMRR) and in a newspaper distributed in the locality of the deceased's last know address.

    Once the inventory of property is finished and published, the successors can accept or refuse the estate. Acceptance can be straightforward or implied. Once the estate has been accepted, the successors cannot change their mind and refuse it (irrevocable decision), unless they have the court reverse their decision. Renunciation must be served by way of notorial act.

  9. File the deceased's federal and provincial income taxes and obtain clearances

    The liquidator has a minimum six-month period to file the deceased's federal and provincial income tax returns. The deadlines for filing the final income tax return and paying any outstanding amount are as follows:

    Date of death
    Filing deadline
    From January 1 to October 31
    April 30 of the following year
    From November 1 to December 31
    Six months following the date of death

    The clearance certificate and notice of distribution of property certify that all of the deceased's debts have been paid to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Revenue Québec (MRQ). If the liquidator fails to obtain these documents prior to the distribution of property, he could be responsible for paying the deceased's tax liabilities.

  10. Pay the debts and legacy by particular title

    Once the inventory of property has been completed, the notice of closure of inventory has been published and the clearances have been obtained, if total debts do not exceed total assets, the liquidator must pay the estate's debts. Since the Civil Code of Quebec came into force in 1994, funeral expenses are no longer considered prior claims.

  11. Partition the family patrimony and settle the matrimonial or civil union regime

    The family patrimony and the matrimonial or civil union regime are there for married spouses or spouses in a civil union. When one of the spouses dies, the net value of the patrimony is divided between the surviving spouse and the heirs.

    After the partition of the family patrimony, the liquidator must settle the matrimonial or civil union regime. Because specific rules apply to each situation, consulting a legal advisor may turn out to be a sound decision.

  12. Establish a final account, publish a notice of closure of the estate account in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights (RPMRR) and distribute the deceased's property to the heirs

    The liquidation's final account determines the estate's net assets or deficit. The notice of closure of the estate account identifies the deceased and indicates where the account can be consulted. If stipulated in the will or requested by a majority of the heirs, the liquidator must include a proposal for partition in the final account. If the proposal is accepted by the heirs, the liquidator can then render an amicable account without any judicial formalities. If the proposal is not accepted, the account is rendered in court. After acceptance of the final account, the liquidator is discharged of his administration and makes delivery of the property to the heirs.

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