What is a Trustee?
A trustee, also known as an executor or administrator, is responsible for carrying out the instructions in a Will. Thus, the role largely includes paying off the debts of the estate and distributing the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries.
A person is either appointed in the Will to be a trustee, or appointed under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act if the deceased did not have a Will. It is often a spouse, family member, or close friend of the willmaker.
What are the Duties of a Trustee?
The Wills, Estates and Succession Act outlines the general duties and authorities of the trustee.
Frankly, the powers entrusted to a trustee can be onerous. A trustee assumes all the same authority that the deceased person had unless otherwise limited by the Will or an enactment.
That said, a trustee must continually act in a way that is in the best interests of all named beneficiaries and of the estate.
In broad terms, the duties of a trustee include administering and distributing the estate, accounting to the beneficiaries, creditors, and others to whom they have an obligation at law to account, and performing duties imposed by the law or by law.
Some trustee duties commonly seen in practice include:
- Ensuring appropriate funeral arrangements are made
- Taking possession and control of the deceased’s assets
- Paying debts and making provisions for other liabilities
- Maintaining proper accounts and being prepared to account
When dealing with the estate and performing duties, a trustee must act impartially and personally.
If a trustee does not wish to act, they can choose to renounce the appointment.
What Happens If There Is No Trustee?
In some cases, there might not be a trustee. For example, if the trustee is unwilling or unable to act at the time of passing. If there is no trustee, it is possible to have a trustee assigned to a deceased’s estate by applying for a grant of administration. Section 130 of the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act stipulates that the applicant must be a spouse or a child of the deceased to be eligible to apply.
The role of trustee is complex, and it is important to pick the right person.
If you are thinking about starting your estate planning or have questions about the process, do not hesitate to contact our Estate Planning team!
You can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 604-973-0188.