Marie-Josée Gauvin

By Marie-Josée Gauvin

August 24, 2017


9 Tips for Settling an Estate With No Will

Article revised on 14 November 2018

The death of a loved one is a difficult experience, full of emotions. But there is no escaping the formal requirements for settling the estate of the deceased. If the person made a will, his or her last wishes can guide the designated liquidator. But would you know what to do in the case of a “legal succession,” when a loved one dies without leaving a will? Here are the steps to follow and advice from the La Capitale Legal Access Insurance team to help guide you through the process.

1. Don’t hesitate to ask for the help of a professional

At any time, don’t hesitate to hire a notary or lawyer to find out what your rights are, help you or represent you if you are not comfortable with the process or if matters get too complicated for you.

2. Obtain a death certificate from the funeral home or the Directeur de l’état civil. This will allow you to initiate the process and conduct a search for the will.

3. Perform a will or mandates search in the registers of the Chambre des notaires and the Barreau du Québec. This search is mandatory, even if you’re certain a notarized will does not exist. It’s not necessary to use the services of a lawyer or notary to do this, but you can if you prefer.

Also check if the deceased left a handwritten will in his or her personal effects, or a marriage contract that contains testamentary clauses.

4Check if the deceased had Legal Access Insurance

If he or she had this coverage, contact the insurer to see if you are entitled to benefits or assistance after the person’s death.

5. Identify the heirs

To do so, we recommend you consult a notary or lawyer.

If there is no will, heirs are determined according to the Civil Code of Québec, which also sets out how the person’s property will be distributed. It states that in this type of situation, the only persons who are considered to be heirs are:

  • The spouse to whom the deceased was married or civilly united (this excludes common-law spouses);
  • Persons related to the deceased by blood or adoption (some institutions require a notarized declaration of inheritance to prove the heir’s status).

6. Designate the liquidator(s)

In the case of an estate without a will, all heirs are considered liquidators. However, for proper settlement of the estate, it is preferable to name one or several.

A notarial act may be required to prove the identity of the designated liquidator(s) to allow them to perform the duties of this role.

7. Settle the estate while managing the estate’s property and assets in a prudent and efficient manner.

There are many tasks and processes set out for liquidators to settle an estate. For example, you must take inventory, notify creditors and various organizations, file taxes, etc. For all the steps involved in these processes, refer to the guides prepared by Services Québec and Éducaloi.

While performing these duties, you must also carefully manage the estate’s assets. For example, maintain the personal property and buildings left by the deceased, maintain insurance coverage on this property, make sound investments, conserve all supporting documents for transactions made on behalf of the estate, etc.

8. In the event of an estate that is in debt, consult a lawyer or notary as soon as possible.

Usually heirs are not personally liable if the deceased has debts that exceed the value of the property bequeathed. But in certain cases, they may be liable:

  • If the various liquidation measures imposed by law are not met (e.g. inventory deadline not met, closure notice not published, etc.)
  • If the heirs took possession of the estate’s property before the inventory is complete.

Under certain conditions and formalities, heirs may be able to renounce the succession, which is why it is important to consult a lawyer or notary promptly.

9. Distribute the deceased’s property and assets at the end of the liquidation process

It’s preferable not to distribute any property or assets before all the steps involved in a liquidation have been taken. This will avoid the liquidator and heirs from taking on any personal liability.

It doesn’t only happen to others!
Before finding yourself in this situation, it would be wise to take out Legal Access Insurance, which can be a valuable resource in a number of situations, including the liquidation of an estate with no will. This comprehensive coverage is available to all La Capitale General Insurance clients for a little more than $1 a week.


Additional information:
Services Québec – What to Do in the Event of Death
Estate Planning: 5 Essential Steps

Learn more about the benefits of adding La Capitale Legal Access Insurance to your coverage!

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