In the event that a death occurs, the assets and liabilities of the deceased (their ‘estate’) need to be resolved.
The person appointed to resolve the estate is either the ‘executor’ (or ‘executrix’ if the person is female) if they were appointed in the will of the deceased, or, in the case there is no will or an executor was not appointed in a will, then they would be appointed by a court and be called an ‘administrator’ (or ‘administratix’).
The certificate issued by a judge when a will is identified as the last will of a deceased person is called ‘letters probate’, also known as a ‘Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee’.
The person responsible for administering an estate holds a fiduciary responsibility as it relates to the beneficiaries of the estate. Holding a fiduciary responsibility means that any conflict of interest whatsoever between the interests of the administrator and the beneficiary must be resolved in favour of the beneficiary.
The role of the estate administrator includes many responsibilities that may be undertaken by the lawyer of the administrator but ultimately are the responsibility of the administrator.
For more information about these responsibilities please review our Estate Administration Checklist.