Deceased persons’ estates | How it works
If someone dies and there’s no one to bury them or manage their estate, we can help.
When people write a will, they usually choose someone to be their personal representative, also known as an executor. The personal representative makes burial arrangements, pays outstanding bills with the deceased person’s money, sells their property, files a tax return, etc. It’s called settling the estate.
If someone dies without a will, a family member often steps forward to settle the estate.
Sometimes, however, there is no one willing or able to be the executor.
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee may make burial arrangements and settle the estate on a case-by-case basis if the beneficiary is:
- a minor – a person under the age of 18
- a represented adult – an adult who doesn’t have the capacity to make decisions and has a guardian, a trustee, a co-decision-maker or a personal directive agent
How does the Public Trustee get involved?
If someone dies and next-of-kin can’t be found, the medical examiner, the funeral home or the police notify the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.
They also get involved if:
- the next-of-kin or a beneficiary in a will is under the age of 18
- the next-of-kin or a beneficiary is an adult who has lost the mental capacity to make decisions – e.g. they have a trustee or power of attorney
- the executor refuses or can’t do the job, and a vulnerable Albertan has an interest in the estate
- the next-of-kin or a beneficiary is a missing person
If there’s no will, someone (e.g. a family member) may go to court for authorization to settle the estate.
If there’s no one able or willing to settle the estate the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee may go to court for authorization to do it.
What does the Public Trustee do?
When they settle an estate, the Public Trustee:
- deals with urgent issues first, like the care of pets or livestock
- makes burial arrangements
- locates and takes control of the person’s assets, like bank accounts and property
- pays debts and files income tax returns
- looks for beneficiaries
- distributes the inheritance
- does a final audit to make sure the estate is administered correctly
Is there a cost?
If the deceased person doesn’t have assets, the Public Trustee applies for funding from other government sources to pay for the burial.
If the deceased person has assets, the Public Trustee uses them to:
- pay for the burial
- help offset the cost of settling the estate
The fees they charge are listed on this page.
What happens to items with sentimental value?
Items with sentimental value, such as photographs, war medals, diplomas, etc. are kept for the family whenever possible.
If you are a beneficiary, let the Public Trustee know immediately if there are items you want to keep so they aren’t liquidated. All requests will be considered.
What should I do if I think I’m a beneficiary?
Contact the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee immediately if you think:
- they are responsible for settling the estate
- you’re entitled to receive money or other assets from the deceased person’s estate
Be ready to:
- tell them the deceased person’s name
- provide them with the file name, if you have it
- respond to their requests quickly
- show them your birth or baptismal certificate, which has your place and date of birth, and your parents’ names
- give them your social insurance number for tax purposes
- tell them immediately if there are assets that should be distributed “as is” rather than liquidated
- be patient; it takes time to properly administer an estate
What happens if a beneficiary can’t be found?
If there’s money in the estate and the Public Trustee can’t find next-of-kin, the funds go to Alberta’s Provincial Treasurer.
If beneficiaries are found later, they can still get the money.
What are the fees?
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee charges the following fees to help offset the cost of settling an estate.
They may change without notice.
They may also hire agents such as property managers, lawyers, real estate agents, appraisers, lawyers, accountants and auctioneers to help administer the estate.
File opening fee
Internal transfer from represented adult/incapacitated person – cash on hand
Receipts other than internal transfer:
- on the first $250,000 of capital received:
- on the next $250,000 of capital received:
- on the balance over $500,000 of capital received:
Bequest and in specie distribution of non-cash items will be added to the total Capital
- Greater of fees calculated or minimum fee of $500 (See Note 1)
On revenue received:
On rental income collected by an agent:
(See Note 2)
On the first $10,000 of capital received:
On the next $90,000 of capital received:
On the next $100,000 of capital received:
On the balance over $200,000 of capital received:
Fee on postage, photocopies and faxes:
- 2% of the total administration fee
Initial investigation fee:
- $150 per half-day
Income tax fee
Terminal T1 Return:
Estate T3 Return:
Adjusted Cost Base letter:
In addition, there may be a time charge of $60 per hour for large estates.
Fee for assets distributed in specie
In specie means the asset is in its original form; it hasn’t been liquidated/sold.
Transfers of land:
- $250 per transfer
- $50 per vehicle
All other property distributed in specie, including transfers of share certificates:
- $35 per distribution
- 5% of the total fee (including the postage fee)
Note 1: Legal fees are not charged where the $500 minimum capital fee applies.
Note 2: Legal fees will not be charged on an Election or a Ministerial Order.
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