What is the Grant of Probate Process in Alberta?

two sets of hands sit folded on a table.

Posted by heritagelaw on Jun 15, 2021 in Blog, Wills & Estate

Dealing with the death of a family member, friend, or loved one can be a difficult emotional process.

While dealing with the aftermath in terms of wills and estates may create additional stress, sometimes being involved in the process can help individuals find closure and acceptance.

If you are responsible for distributing the assets of a will, the Grant of Probate process may seem like a difficult one. However, with the support of a will and estate lawyer, it doesn’t have to be.

Our team at Heritage Law is dedicated to helping you through this difficult time. To get you started on understanding the probate process here is some information on what it is and how it works:

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal term used to describe the process in which a will is authenticated and validated. It also refers to the administering of a will or the estate of a deceased individual who doesn’t have a will.

The probate process involves reviewing the deceased’s assets and determine the division and distribution of these assets to beneficiaries according to the wishes of the will.

If a person dies and does not have a will, or the will has been deemed invalid by the court, they are considered to have died “intestate”. The probate process in these cases includes distributing the deceased’s assets according to local laws.

However, if the deceased does not have any assets, probate may not be necessary.

When is a Probate Needed?

In Alberta, probate is usually only required when financial assets are held solely in the deceased’s name as well as when dealing with real estate.

For example, banks have the discretion to require a probate if the deceased has over $25,000 in any account in order to ensure that the executor has the legal authority to deal with the property.

Likewise, in order to change a land title from the deceased’s name to a beneficiary, the Court of the Queen’s Bench requires a grant of probate.

Who is Responsible for Probating a Will?

The person responsible for probating a will is known as an “executor”. This individual or financial advisor is expected to file the will with the probate court.

A will typically specifies a legal representative or executor approved by the court. This person is responsible for locating and distributing the deceased individual’s assets. They must also oversee any financial obligations such as taxes and debts owed by the deceased.

If there is no executor named in the will, or if the named executor rejects their role, a probate court will appoint someone to serve as the executor. This is typically a close family member.

What is the Probate Process in Alberta?

Young man with chin in hand reads document

If you have been appointed to act as the executor of the estate, you will need to conduct a search for the deceased’s will.

Even if you don’t find the will, you will then have to contact a wills and estates lawyer in Alberta to determine if you are entitled to act as executor. Your probate lawyer may provide you with a questionnaire to complete before your initial consultation.

During your first meeting with the lawyer, they will review your questionnaire, answer any questions you have, and discuss the probate process. You will receive a list of documents necessary to complete your application.

Next comes the information gathering. Once it is confirmed that you are entitled to act as the estate’s executor, you’ll need to gather required documentation including a death certificate, bank statements, life insurance policies, and various other paperwork.

This information must be forwarded to your probate lawyer. At this point, your lawyer will draft a probate application for you to review and sign. It will then be submitted to the courts.

The courts then issue a Grant of Probate which can take anywhere between one to six months. You’ll then meet with your lawyer again to obtain certified copies of the grant. 

Once you have your certified copies, you will need to sort out the distribution options for the estate’s assets. A lawyer can help you organize a distribution plan and compensation schedule as well as provide you with draft releases for the beneficiaries to sign.

In order to gather the estate assets, you may need to provide copies of the grant of probate to places such as banks and other financial institutions. You can then distribute the estate to the beneficiaries according to the proposed distribution plan.

Depending on the availability of the courts handling the application, it can take 3-4 months for the court to issue the grant. After that, the process can be completed quickly but may take more time if the estate requires multiple distributions.

If there are outstanding tax returns that need to be filed on behalf of the deceased, it is recommended that you consult a tax accountant to ensure the returns are filed properly and that you receive a clearance certificate from the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency).

Here is a simplified breakdown of the above steps:

  • Locate the will.
  • Verify your role as executor with a lawyer.
  • Gather necessary documents.
  • Review and sign the probate application.
  • Have your lawyer submit the application to the court.
  • Wait for the court to issue a Grant of Probate.
  • Obtain certified copies of the grant.
  • Organize a distribution plan for the estate’s assets.
  • Have the beneficiaries sign a release.
  • Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

We’re Here to Support You

Completing the probate process may seem overwhelming but remember that you will have a lawyer by your side every step of the way.

Heritage Law is no stranger to will and estate law. Not only do we help people remove the stress and complications of estate planning but we also assist executors in carrying out the wishes of their deceased loved ones.

If you’ve been trusted to handle the directives of a will and don’t know where to start, get in touch with our team today.