First Week After Death

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While many executor tasks can wait for a calmer and less stressful time, there are a few things you should do right away:

Notify Close Friends & Family

Inform close friends and relatives of the death. You can let other people know later, once things have settled down.

Notify Active Employer

If the decedent was actively employed, and the employer might reasonably be counting on that person to show up the next day, it's nice to notify the employer. On the other hand, if the decedent was retired, or performed occasional contracting work, notifying an employer can wait.

Secure the Assets

Part of your duty as executor is to protect the estate. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for criminals to use these situations as an opportunity to help themselves, or even for well-meaning friends or relatives to want to take something as a "keepsake". Things you should consider:

  • Collect any easily portable items of significant value and put them someplace secure
  • Discontinue any newspaper subscription that would pile up outside an unlived-in home
  • Arrange to have the mail collected
  • Arrange for yard maintenance, if none exists
  • If applicable, arrange for pet care
  • Cancel other home-based services, such as housekeeping or meal delivery services

Arrange Funeral

In most provinces, a person named in a will as executor is legally responsible for arranging the funeral. As part of this process, you and your delegates will notify additional friends and family of the death.

Notify Veterans Affairs Canada

If the decedent was a veteran, the executor should contact the VAC as soon as possible, in order to potentially have them participate in and fund certain funeral activities and expenses (see Veterans). Your funeral director can coordinate this.

Order Death Certificates

You should request at least 10 copies of a Proof of Death statement from the funeral home: these statements will be required for proving death to various asset custodians, creditors, and potentially the court.

While a Proof of Death statement issued by the funeral home will suffice for most cases, you may need official government death certificates when dealing with certain government agencies, life insurance companies, foreign organizations, etc.

You can ask the funeral home to order you several official death certificates as well, and if you later need more, you can order directly: see Task: Order death certificates for instructions regarding the decedent's province, or locate the appropriate province ordering instructions here.

Locate the Will

Ideally, you already have a copy of the will, and know how to obtain the signed original. Get it, and keep it safe.

Some provinces maintain a central will depository you can check, or allow people to deposit their wills for safekeeping with the local court registrar:

  • In British Columbia, you can check with the Vital Statistics Agency to see if the decedent filed a notice to say where the will was kept, using VSA Form 532.
  • In Manitoba, the Office of the Deputy Registrar in each judicial centre is responsible for the safekeeping of wills; you can contact Manitoba Justice in Winnipeg at 204 945-3184 to get started.
  • In Ontario, you can check with local Superior Court of Justice to see if the decedent deposited a copy of the will for safekeeping.
  • In Quebec, if the decedent created a notarial will, the notary will have it. You are also required by law to search Barreau du Québec and Chambre des Notaires.
  • In Saskatchewan, you can contact The Wills and Estates Registry to see if a will has been deposited for safekeeping with a local registrar somewhere in SK, and you can also ask the Law Society for help in locating a will.

Alternatively, if the decedent had a personal lawyer, you can ask the lawyer if he or she has it. You may also be able to find the will in the decedent's personal files; see also Accessing Safe Deposit Boxes.

Finally, you may want to check with the private Canada Will Registry to see if the decedent registered his or her will there, but searching does cost money.

If there is no will, the deceased is considered to have died "intestate", and things will be a little more complicated. Each province has its own rules for determining who will inherit in such cases, and who should serve as executor.

See also First Month.

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