In Alberta, there is a common-law rule of thumb that an executor has one year from the date of death to complete their administration of an estate. This means that they have 365 days to collect in estate assets, pay estate debts and liabilities, and distribute the residue in accordance with the terms of the Will. Sometimes, this rule of thumb is followed and an executor successfully completes all of their duties within one year. Other times, and generally when the estate is more complex, the administration can take far longer. For example, if provisions such as a minor's trust clause or a Henson Trust are included in a Will, the estate may not be closed for many years.
It is unreasonable to demand or expect a full distribution of the estate in less than one year. In addition to their many other responsibilities, the executor must obtain a tax clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which could take up to 18 months or more to obtain. Many times, a portion of the estate will be held back from distribution pending receipt of the clearance certificate.
If an estate is taking an unreasonable amount of time to close, beneficiaries may need to take necessary steps to ensure that the executor is acting in their best interest.
If you are an executor having difficulty closing an estate, or if you are a beneficiary who is concerned about the length of time that it is taking to wind up an estate, contact one of our experienced estate lawyers for a consultation meeting. Remember, we are here to help!