All About Estates

And then there was more…

Typical advice to an executor would outline his or her duties, explain how to go about completing them, and then would end with a statement something along the lines of “and then your job as an executor will be complete”.  And we all know that the role of an executor can be a complicated and drawn-out affair. Today’s blog is about an interesting situation that I recently came across where the executors of the estate of a grandmother believed the job had been long complete, but that has turned out not to be the case.

In this case, grandmother’s estate was administered without having to obtain probate.  But it was not a simple estate to administer. Among other things, the administration involved the provision of indemnities to the relevant financial institutions with respect to bank accounts in order to access the funds in the account without having first obtained probate. After much effort, the final distribution of amounts from grandmother’s estate was completed more than a decade ago. At this point the executors happily rubbed their hands together and thought, “Aha, we are finally done!”  And for those of us who have acted as executors, you likely know that exact feeling!

Fast forward to today when, in connection with the subsequent administration of the grandfather’s estate, papers were located that indicated the surprising existence of a safety deposit box owned by the deceased grandmother. Lo and behold, after access to the safety deposit box was granted for the purposes of ascertaining its contents, it was discovered that it contained some items of jewellery and some currency. And while I have personally never come across this type of situation before, it is not difficult to imagine that this situation is not unique to this particular family.

So…. after more than a decade, the executors of grandmother’s estate are now called back into action to try and deal with the contents of the safety deposit box. This raises some interesting issues to consider.  Will the contents simply be able to be removed from the safety deposit box and distributed?  If not, what will the institution require? If probate is required, how will the estate administration tax get funded when the estate has no assets at this point (other than the contents of the safety deposit box)? How this situation will ultimately be resolved has yet to be determined, and so the answers to the questions I posit remain unclear.

What is clear, however, is that the role of an executor is never over until it’s truly over!

About Maureen Berry
Maureen Berry is a partner in the Trusts, Wills, Estates and Charities group at Fasken. Maureen’s practice is focused on wills, estate planning, domestic and international trusts, private corporation taxation, and executive compensation. Maureen also advises charities and non-profit organizations. Working with Canadian and international families, firms, corporations and charitable organizations, she provides advice on all aspects of private client matters. She is a leading expert in the fields of tax law and estate planning. As an Adjunct Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, she teaches Advanced Estate Planning. Maureen has previously taught corporate tax and international tax at the University of Toronto and Western University, along with the Bar Admission course for up-and-coming lawyers.


  1. Larry Amstutz

    July 2, 2021 - 1:30 pm

    Would there be any question today if when it was completed 10 year’s before a Clearance Certificate had been obtained when grandma died?

  2. Jill Bone

    July 2, 2021 - 3:56 pm

    I am working with a family who have learned that their mother-in-law’s estate has not been finalized – she passed away in 1992. There is real estate, bonds, and a SDB to deal with – it’s never over until it’s over!

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