An estate trustee derives his authority to act from the will which takes effect upon the death of the testator. An estate trustee who is not willing to assume the duties office, however, may formally renounce the right to act.
The estate trustee has certain statutory rights and obligations which includes:
- Arranges for the proper funeral and burial of the deceased
- Determines that the will that appoints him or her as the estate trustee is the last will of the deceased.
- Determines the names, addresses and ages of the beneficiaries and notifies them of their interests.
- Determines the nature and value of the assets and debts of the deceased and compiles a detailed inventory, which includes the contents of safety deposit boxes.
- Ensures that property is protected (e.g. insurance and appropriate supervision).
- Continues and oversees the operation of any business interests.
- Opens an estate bank account.
- Retains a lawyer to advise and assist in the administration of the estate.
- Instructs the lawyer to prepare the documents necessary to apply for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will (formerly “letters probate”), if required.
- Arranges for the payment of debts and contests debts if not convinced of their validity.
- Prepares and files the necessary tax returns in all relevant jurisdictions and pays any tax owing.
- Maintains proper accounts.
- If required to do so, provides the beneficiaries and the court with an account of all dealings with the estate assets during the term of administration.
- Sets up and administers any trusts established by the will.
- Distributes the assets according to the terms of the will and obtains releases from the beneficiaries.
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