When an Ontario resident passes away, his or her loved ones are often left with the task of paying his or her debts and distributing assets. One of the first steps in that process is applying for a Certificate of Estate Trustee with the Ministry of the Attorney General. The Certificate of Estate Trustee designates a certain person as the trustee responsible for settling the deceased person's affairs. Many people refer to the estate trustee as the executor.
The estate trustee designation is determined in a couple of different ways, depending on whether the deceased had a will. If so, the Certificate of Estate Trustee often confirms that the person named trustee in the will is the legal and rightful trustee. If there is no will, a trustee still has to be named. Those wishing to be trustee apply for the certificate and the ministry makes a decision based on the application. The beneficiary who is named trustee then handles the legal process of paying the deceased's bills, selling assets, and distributing assets to all rightful heirs.
The ministry has stated that its goal is to process all estate trustee applications within 15 days. If a beneficiary is not sure whether or not an application has been filed, he or she can request a provincial search by writing to the Superior Court of Justice. The search request letter should include the deceased's full name, address, date of birth and date of death. There may also be fees that must be paid before the court executes the search.
It is important to note that ministry officials are not allowed to provide any advice regarding whether an application should be filed, whom should be named trustee or how assets should be distributed. Their role is simply to check the applications for accuracy and process them accordingly. Those needing assistance or guidance in settling a loved one's estate may want to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer.
Source: Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, "Frequently Asked Questions about Estates", October 06, 2014