Immediate Actions: What to Do When Someone Dies in Ontario

Table of Contents

The first step when someone passes away is to address urgent matters! You will need to locate the Will to determine who is in charge. This person is called the Executor or Estate Trustee. In the meantime, a copy of their Will will suffice for urgent maters. This is the first checklist for what to do when someone dies. The more administrative stuff will be covered in a later post of this series – the original Will is important for those later steps.

If you are not named as the executor of the Will, contact the executor (also known as the estate trustee or estate administrator) immediately to start managing the estate. They will provide instructions on how you can assist, but ultimately, they are in charge of handling the estate affairs.

If you are not named as an executor in deceased’s Will, you have no authority to administer the estate unless you get a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will issued by a lawyer. But you can help with the immediate actions below!

Quick checklist for what to do immediately after someone dies

  • Is the deceased an organ donor? Find their driver’s license or their Will to find out. If they are then arrange for donation of organs or tissue, or entire body for medical education and scientific research
  • Determine if there is a funeral pre-arrangement. Then, start to arrange funeral, burial and, headstone. Funeral arrangements are usually the first payment made by the estate! The person who sets up the funeral arrangements with funeral home is personally liable for expenses, but has a right to be reimbursed from estate. We recommend reaching out to Dignity Memorial for more information on the funeral and burial process in Ontario.
  • Prepare and arrange for publication of obituary. 
  • Obtain multiple death certificates (at least 3!) from funeral director – you’ll need these later!
  • Go into the deceased’s home straightaway to:
    1. Dispose of perishables in the home of the dead
    2. Secure assets of the deceased, this includes making sure doors are locked, animals are taken care of, safety deposit boxes are still intact, etc.

Caution!

Every adult in Canada should have a will. Especially if you own anything (like a house) or have a partner or children that you are living with.

If you do not have a will, the government will choose how to split up your assets (even your savings).

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Checklist for Managing Ongoing Financial Obligations After Death

Even after someone passes away, there are ongoing expenses that need to be taken care of. It’s important to continue making necessary payments to maintain assets and prevent the estate from accumulating debt. If the bank won’t allow payments from the deceased’s account, you will need a death certificate or a power of attorney to access the funds.

Alternatively, the estate trustee or a beneficiary can pay these expenses personally and get reimbursed from the estate later. If you can’t make payments, the estate trustee should contact the creditors to explain the situation and request a grace period to avoid immediate debt enforcement.

Below is a checklist of some of these necessary payments to maintain when someone dies:

  • Home upkeep such as mortgages, utilities, or rent. Utilities are super important during the winter so that pipes do not freeze or if there are tenants living in a property.
  • The minimums on credit cards so that the Estate does not end up with a big bill or in collections.
  • Expenses for the continuation of any businesses owned by the deceased.
  • Continuation of paying spousal and child support (this one you can get in a lot of trouble if you don’t!)
  • Cancel subscriptions and memberships, beneficiaries will thank you later!
signing documents with an estate lawyer after someone dies

Notifying Relevant Parties and Managing Assets of the Deceased

When a loved one passes away, there are several important tasks that need to be addressed to properly manage their affairs. One of the first steps is to notify any relevant third-parties in order to properly manage their assets, including employers or employees, banks, tenants, insurance companies, and advisors

  • Whether the deceased in a tenant or a landlord people will need to be alerted of their death. If the deceased owns rental properties, write to tenants to redirect rent on rental properties to an active bank account. If the deceased is a tenant, give notice on or sublet rented residence.
  • Ensure someone at deceased’s business has money and knowledge to continue business or appoint manager.
  • Advise insurance companies of death: including change home and automobile insurance into name of estate trustee if possible, and determine requirements with respect to occupation of house, and get vacancy permit if necessary.

Basic Administrative Tasks to Complete When Someone Dies

Handling administrative tasks after the death of a loved one can be overwhelming but is necessary to manage their affairs properly. Essential actions include managing mail, canceling important identification documents and services, and ensuring any entitled benefits are applied for. Our next blog post in the series will help you with the more complicated administration that often involves a lawyer.

  • If you’re a widow managing the estate of your spouse, apply for the CPP Benefit. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) survivor’s pension is a monthly payment paid to the legal spouse or common-law partner of the deceased contributor.
  • If a worker dies (work-related), the surviving family members may receive WSIB Survivor Benefits. If the deceased died on the job, determine whether you are eligible and make an application.

What if you can’t find the original Will?

If you never found the Will then someone who is close to the deceased may need to start with the immediate actions indicated above. The distribution of assets can come later.

If original Will cannot be found (but you have a copy!) consider whether the Will might still be probated. In other words, whether you may still use this Will. Probated means the wishes of the Will will go forward. If all persons with a financial interest in the estate (including those who would inherit on an intestacy) consent to it, the validity and contents of the Will may be proven by affidavit evidence (a letter from the beneficiaries!) This can be a long and difficult process – it is best to have a estate lawyer create a Will so you can avoid probate.

If there is no Will at all. The immediate actions still need to be taken by someone close to the deceased – use the above checklist of what to do when someone dies. The assets will be divided by intestate succession, detailed by the Succession Law Refrom Act. Assets will likely be held for one year prior to division, in search for a Will.

Ok, so you found the Will! 

If you are not named as an executor of the Will, immediately contact the executor (also known as estate trustee or estate administrator) to begin dealing with the affairs.

If you are named the executor in a Will, you do not legally have to administer the estate. You can default to the second named executor. If you choose not to act as executor, then do not begin making any arrangements.  If you are named as executor and are willing to act, then you will need to deal with Urgent Matters as soon as possible, you can deal with the administrative tasks afterwards.

As the executor of the estate in Ontario, you need to address certain things right away!

Final Notes on the Executor Tasks after Death

Navigating the responsibilities after loss can be overwhelming, but understanding the essential steps can provide some clarity during this difficult time. By systematically handling these responsibilities, you can honor your loved one’s legacy and ensure that all necessary arrangements are respectfully and efficiently managed.

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