Step-by-Step Guide for Bereaved Families

Death of a loved one is difficult for anyone, but having to deal with their financial affairs can be overwhelming. Here is a simple guide to show how one’s financial affairs should be dealt with.

Gather all Financial and Legal Documents
• Copies of marriage, birth and death certificates
• Wills and life insurance policies
• All investment accounts including RRSPs and pension plans
• Group insurance benefit packages
• Business contracts including buy-sell agreements
• Automobile registration, insurance and driver’s license
• Income tax returns
• List of all assets and liabilities

Contact your Life Insurance Agent
Your insurance broker will guide you through the process of informing the various life insurance companies where policies are held. This includes personal policies, group insurance benefits and any corporately held contracts.  If you do not have a current agent, contact me, I can help.

Notify the Various Government Agencies
• Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security will both pay any pension amounts due to the beneficiary of the estate. A lump sum payment is also payable by CPP.
• BC Medical (or any other Provincial Medical or State Plan) will adjust medical care cards and statements accordingly.
• Worker’s Compensation if the deceased was receiving a pension or monthly disability income.
• Employment Insurance (E.I.) if the individual was collecting unemployment benefits at the time of death.
• Motor Vehicle branches to cancel the drivers license and transfer ownership of any vehicles.
• Military Branches if the individual was collecting any benefits from the Armed Services.

Inform other Financial Institutions
• Contact your bank to change jointly owned bank accounts (chequing, GICs, loans) to accounts owned solely
by yourself.
• RRSPs can be rolled tax-free to the surviving spouse or under certain circumstances to dependent children.
• Home insurance policies and auto insurance will also need to be amended.

Probating the Will
Depending on the size and type of asset the will may need to be probated.

Probate is simply the process to validate the will so that assets can be distributed according to the will. If the home or other asset like a vehicle,
bank account are jointly owned, probate is not necessary. Mutual funds, stock portfolios, rental property will normally go through the probate process. Segregated funds and life insurance and other insurance company
products are usually paid directly to the named beneficiary, thus avoiding probate fees and delays.

Probating the will can either be done personally by going to the Provincial Registrar Office or having an attorney do it for you. For sizeable estates and assets more complicated due to tax, accounting or legal issues, a lawyer should be used.

“Letters of Administration”
If no will exists, the executor of the estate needs to apply for “Letters of Administration” through the Provincial Registrars Office. Be prepared to pay a fee for this service and expect several weeks/months delay. Having a proper and current will avoids this problem for those concerned.

Tax Returns
Ultimately the current year’s tax return plus a “terminal” tax return will need to be filed. Consult your accountant or other financial advisor to guide you through Revenue Canada’s requirements.

Get Emotional Support
Unless you have dealt with the death of a close family member it is difficult to understand the emotional upheaval you will go through. Enlist the help of family members and close friends to work through the processes
listed above. Provincial counselling and bereavement support centers exist, and are a wonderful resource.