All About Estates

Initial Issues Encountered When Dealing With a Possible Insolvent Estate

Today’s blog is written by guest bloggers, Krista Brown and Tracy Parkinson, law clerks in the Private Client Services group of Fasken LLP.

As estate law professionals, when we hear the words “possibly insolvent estate” most of us immediately see a giant STOP sign.

A named estate trustee in a Will, or prospective estate trustee where the deceased died intestate (in either case, hereinafter referred to as a “prospective estate trustee”), should always take preliminary steps to obtain information and documentation to enable the prospective estate trustee to paint a clear picture of the assets and liabilities of the estate prior to accepting the role.

Institutions will generally require a death certificate of the deceased before they will speak to a prospective estate trustee, let alone release any information with respect to the assets and liabilities of the deceased. Obtaining a death certificate is sometimes easier said than done. What if the deceased, at the date of death, does not have sufficient funds to pay the funeral invoice? It is possible the funeral home will refuse to provide a death certificate prior to full payment of their invoice. Thankfully, there are a few options for the prospective estate trustee:

  • Any one of the prospective estate trustee, next of kin or any other person who is willing and able, can advance funds from his or her own pocket to satisfy the funeral invoice but, obviously, if it is determined that the estate is in fact insolvent, reimbursement may not be possible.
  • A provincial death certificate can be ordered only IF the funeral home has registered the death with the Province of Ontario.
  • An application can be made to the Employment and Social Services (“ESS”) in the city in which the deceased resided at the date of death to request assistance to cover the funeral invoice. If the deceased is determined eligible, help from ESS to cover funeral costs can include payment of funeral services, burial services and cremation services. To determine eligibility, ESS will consider the financial situation of the deceased at the date of death.
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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.


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