Government of Nova Scotiagov.ns.ca
gov.ns.caGovernment of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada
 
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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is there a difference between an executor and an administrator and a personal representative?
  2. Can I hire a professional to help me settle the estate?
  3. Am I going to need a lawyer?
  4. If the deceased died outside Nova Scotia, do I get the Death Certificate from Nova Scotia Vital Statistics?
  5. Is the Proof of Death document from the funeral director different from a Death Certificate?
  6. Are the beneficiaries personally responsible for paying the debts or taxes of the deceased?
  7. What is a Grant of Probate?
  8. What is a Grant of Administration?
  9. What is a Grant of Administration with Will Annexed?
  10. Do I need Probate if the deceased had a will?
  11. Do named beneficiaries—on life insurance policies, for example - need to provide letters of probate?
  12. Are there associated costs with Probate?
  13. What if the deceased did not have enough funds to cover the cost of the funeral/burial?
  14. Who is authorized to administer or probate an estate?
  15. If I was in a common-law relationship with the deceased, would I be considered an heir?
  16. As a beneficiary of a deceased person’s estate, do I have to pay estate or inheritance tax?
  17. Does an income tax return have to be filed for the deceased?
  18. What if the deceased’s bank account is frozen?
  19. How do I gain access to the safety deposit box if it contains required documentation?
  20. What do I need to do at the bank?
  21. What do I need to do when I meet with the investment representative?
  22. How long do I have to settle the estate?
  23. Do I have to agree to be an executor?
  24. Do executors get paid?

Is there a difference between an executor and an administrator and a personal representative?

Yes, the term executor refers to the personal representative identified in a valid will. The term administrator refers to the personal representative named by the Probate Court in the event there is no will. The modern term for both these roles is now personal representative.

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Can I hire a professional to help me settle the estate?

Yes. Lawyers, accountants, and trust companies are the most widely used professional services during estate settlement. The deceased’s estate usually pays for these services.

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Am I going to need a lawyer?

That depends. Some organizations may require that you seek a lawyer’s assistance to transfer an asset or settle an account. In many cases, this depends on whose name was on the deceased’s assets and whether or not there is a will. If assets were jointly owned with right of survivorship, a lawyer may not be necessary. If there was no will or trust, or there were assets that were solely owned by the deceased, legal assistance may be required. Contact information for the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society is provided on the insert accompanying this booklet.

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If the deceased died outside Nova Scotia, do I get the Death Certificate from Nova Scotia Vital Statistics?

No, if the person died outside Nova Scotia, you must obtain the death certificate from the province, state, or country where the death occurred.

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Is the Proof of Death document from the funeral director different from a Death Certificate?

Yes. The Proof of Death document is issued from the funeral director under their authority. The Death Certificate is issued from Vital statistics and is an excerpt issued from the official death registry. Most organizations will accept the funeral director’s Proof of Death to amend their records. However, some organizations may require the official Death Certificate. Ensure that you find out which document the organization requires to complete your transactions. Please note, there is a cost to order a Death Certificate.

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Are the beneficiaries personally responsible for paying the debts or taxes of the deceased?

No. Beneficiaries are not expected to pay the deceased’s debts from their personal funds. The executor (with a will) or the administrator (named with no will) is responsible for ensuring the estate’s funds and assets are used to repay the debts and taxes of the deceased. If there are not enough funds in the estate to pay debts or taxes, contact a lawyer to determine the priority of repayment.

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What is a Grant of Probate?

A Grant of Probate is the document issued by the Probate Court of Nova Scotia. It certifies that the will was properly proved to be the last will of the deceased and was registered in the Court. The Grant signifies that administration of the testator’s property was properly granted by the Court to the executor named in the Will. The Grant of Probate applies to all property, including all land, money, and other things owned by the deceased, located anywhere in the province. The executor takes their authority to deal with the estate from the Will. The Grant of Probate is evidence of the executor’s authority.

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What is a Grant of Administration?

A Grant of Administration is the document issued by the Probate Court of Nova Scotia when a person dies intestate (without a will). This Grant is given to a person appointed by the Court and gives conclusive evidence that the person to whom the Grant was issued has authority to administer the estate of the person who died without a will. The personal representative (administrator) derives their authority solely under the Grant, unlike an executor who derives his or her authority from the Will.

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What is a Grant of Administration with Will Annexed?

A Grant of Administration with Will Annexed is a document issued by the Probate Court of Nova Scotia to a person appointed by the Court when the Will does not name an executor or the named executor cannot or will not act. In these cases, the will must be proved in the same way as if a Grant of Probate had been applied for.

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Do I need Probate if the deceased had a will?

That depends. If a person died with a will, the executor may only need to apply for probate if the asset holders (such as banks, investment companies, life insurance companies or the Land Registry Office) request probate to prove the executor has the authority to receive the asset and administer the estate. This request is usually only made if the deceased held the asset in their sole name, as many jointly held assets may transfer to the joint owner. If the deceased owned assets in their name alone, contact the probate court or your lawyer with respect to requirements of transferring ownership.

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Do named beneficiaries—on life insurance policies, for example - need to provide letters of probate?

Not usually. The life insurance company will not likely ask for a grant of probate or administration if the deceased named beneficiaries on the policy. The proceeds from the policy would likely be made out directly to the named beneficiary.

However, if the estate is listed as the named beneficiary, the insurance company may want to see the grant of probate or grant of administration to validate this.

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Are there associated costs with Probate?

Yes. Probate taxes are usually based on the value of the assets that need to go through probate. The cost may be about 5 percent of the value of the estate. Filing and certification fees are also charged.

For more information on Probate Fees, contact your local Probate Office.

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What if the deceased did not have enough funds to cover the cost of the funeral/burial?

If the deceased was receiving Long Term Care through Nova Scotia Health and Wellness or certain benefits through Nova Scotia Community Services, there may be assistance available to assist in covering these costs. If the deceased was a veteran, the Last Post Fund may be of assistance.

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Who is authorized to administer or probate an estate?

If there is a will, the person named as the executor is the first person entitled to administer the estate.

But if there is no will or if the named executor in the will refuses to take on the position or is unable to due to death or illness, the Probate Act lists who has the right to apply to the Court of Probate to be the personal representative/administrator of the estate, in the following order:

  • the legal spouse of the person who dies without a will and his or her children if these parties live in Nova Scotia
  • persons who are entitled to inherit as provided by the Intestate Succession Act of Nova Scotia or persons who are named as residuary beneficiaries in the will of the deceased, if these persons reside in Nova Scotia
  • the Public Trustee of Nova Scotia
  • persons who are entitled to inherit as provided by the Intestate Succession Act or persons who are named as residuary beneficiaries in the will of the deceased, if these persons live outside of Nova Scotia
  • a creditor or a person who has a legal cause of action against the deceased’s estate

If you are living outside of Nova Scotia and you are an heir of the deceased who had no will, you have to contact the Public Trustee’s Office to see if the Public Trustee is prepared to renounce its right to administer the estate or whether the Public Trustee is prepared to act as the personal representative.

The Public Trustee considers many factors before deciding whether it will administer the estate or whether it will step aside and allow someone else to apply. The Public Trustee will gather details about the estate and to find out what the assets are, what the debts are, and who the heirs or beneficiaries are. The information will let the Public Trustee know who has the first right to administer the estate and whether the Public Trustee should apply to administer the estate.

If the Public Trustee decides it will renounce, or step aside thereby allowing an heir outside of Nova Scotia to apply, the Public Trustee will prepare a renunciation form which the heir must file at the Court of Probate.

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If I was in a common-law relationship with the deceased, would I be considered an heir?

No. Common law spouses are not considered heirs under the Intestate Succession Act of Nova Scotia. You must either be legally married or a have a registered domestic partnership to be an heir of an estate when there is no will. For more information, contact a lawyer.

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As a beneficiary of a deceased person’s estate, do I have to pay estate or inheritance tax?

No. Generally, you do not have to pay tax to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on what you inherit. You may have to pay taxes on income that is earned from the money you inherited, for example, bank interest earned on your inheritance. Contact CRA for more information.

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Does an income tax return have to be filed for the deceased?

Yes. If you are the legal representative (executor or administrator) for the deceased person, you are responsible for filing a return for the deceased for the year of death. This return is called the final return. You also have to file any returns for the previous years that the deceased person did not file. You may also have to file additional returns. For more information, contact Canada Revenue Agency.

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What if the deceased’s bank account is frozen?

If you provide the bank with the Proof of Death from the funeral director and identification as executor/administrator, some financial institutions may release funds to pay prioritized expenses, such as probate and property tax, funeral expenses, utilities, and insurance premiums.

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How do I gain access to the safety deposit box if it contains required documentation?

If you provide the bank with the Proof of Death from the funeral director and identification as executor/administrator, the bank may grant you the access to secure certain documents from the safety deposit box, such as the will, insurance policies, or cemetery arrangement deeds. You may need a letter of probate or administration to gain authorization to access other documents in the safety deposit box.

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What do I need to do at the bank?

When you meet with the bank representative, ask them to search for all bank accounts and securities. The names of the owners of the accounts will need to be reviewed and changed as necessary. Obtain a date of death value of the accounts and a list of all pre-authorized transactions for each account.

You should set up an account for the estate. Take note of the contents of the safe deposit box. Find out what is required to liquidate and close each of the deceased’s accounts.

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What do I need to do when I meet with the investment representative?

When meeting with the investment representative, review the deceased’s investment portfolio to determine what actions should be taken. You should also request the adjusted cost base as well as a date of death value for all investments for tax purposes.

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How long do I have to settle the estate?

There is no defined time line by which you have to have the estate settled, as long efforts are in progress. If the estate is not settled by the end of the first year, beneficiaries can ask to be provided with an update of the executor’s progress to date. The beneficiaries have the right to question your performance as executor. It is not unusual for it to take up to 2 years to settle an estate.

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Do I have to agree to be an executor?

No, you have the right to decline. If you choose to decline, this should be done before any estate settlement activities have begun. You may need legal assistance to decline if you are named in the will.

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Do executors get paid?

Maybe. The will may state that the executor is to be paid and may set out an amount. If so, this is the amount to which the executor is entitled. Most wills do not indicate the fee for the executor, as it is defined by provincial law. In Nova Scotia, an executor or administrator can be entitled to up to 5 per cent of the gross estate value. The fee is evenly distributed if there is more than one named executor. This payment must be included as taxable income. Many executors and administrators forego being paid for personal reasons and because the fee must be declared as income.

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