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The Alberta Estate Administration Act: A Brief Overview

The Estate Administration Act of Alberta are the set of laws that govern the duties of Administrators and Executors who are tasked with managing estates. This act names these individuals as personal representatives of the decedent. 


The Act exists to protect the wishes of the decedent. It also outlines what happens when someone dies without a will, creates the provision that dependent family members must receive adequate support from the estate, and codifies the recourse that beneficiaries have should executors or Administrators be found wanting in their duties. It further outlines when and how a will might be challenged.


Note: there is little difference between an executor and an Administrator. Alberta calls you an executor when there is a will and the decedent’s wishes are known. You’re called an Administrator when the decedent passes without a valid will. In either case, you are considered to be the personal representative of the deceased and your duties are basically the same. 


What happens after probate in Alberta?


After probate, the court will either appoint an Administrator if no Executor is named in the will or allow the Executor to begin administering the estate. This does not mean the assets will get released right away, as there are many tasks that must be completed.


One of the most important tasks will be filing the final tax return for the estate and receiving a clearance certificate from the CRA.


See also:


How Long Does an Executor Have to Settle an Estate in Canada?


How Long Does it Take to Probate a Will in Alberta?


How Long Does a Beneficiary Have to Sign a Release?


How do I get a Grant of Letters of Administration?


Before the decedent’s bank will release money they will require the executor or administrator to produce either “testamentary letters” or “letters of administration.” Title companies also need these letters to release real property deeds to any heirs. 


The only difference between the two is whether or not the decedent died without a will. They’re called Letters of Administration when the decedent died intestate and Letters Testamentary when a verified will is in place. 


These are official court documents that are generated after the probate hearing. The court will provide these orders to the executor or administrator. You will generally need to pick them up from the Clerk of Court, though sometimes the court will mail them to you after probate proceedings have been completed. These letters are only released to the executor or the administrator. 


What happens when an executor dies in Alberta?


If an executor dies then the courts may appoint a substitute personal representative. You can apply to become that representative. If the court grants your application, you may take over and finish administering the estate. 


What debts are forgiven when you die in Alberta?


Debts do not transfer to your heirs upon death unless they acted as co-signers on those debts, and it’s important for your heirs to be made aware of this fact. Creditors will absolutely try to talk beneficiaries into taking responsibility for debts, especially credit card companies.


The estate is responsible for paying certain debts prior to the administration of assets to beneficiaries. These include credit card debts, student loans, lines of credit, and mortgages. Certain estate planning moves may make it possible to transfer mortgages to beneficiaries so that they may keep the property they’re attached to, but you’ll need an attorney’s help to make it happen. 


How can you apply to be an Administrator of an estate in Alberta?


First, understand that the court prioritizes who may be an administer. The priority is:


  • Spouse or adult interdependent partner of the deceased. 
  • Children of the deceased.
  • Grandchildren of the deceased. 
  • Any descendant other than a grandchild.
  • Parent of the deceased.
  • Siblings of the deceased.
  • Nieces or nephews if they are beneficiaries.
  • Next-of-kin, if beneficiaries.
  • Person with an interest in the estate due to a relationship with the deceased.
  • Claimant against the estate.
  • The province of Alberta.


The person who is lower on the priority scale may only apply to be the Administrator if someone who is above them on the list has already been deemed unwilling or unable to Administer the estate. 


To apply for a Grant of Administration you should reach out to a qualified wills and estates attorney who can help you begin the process. You must file Surrogate Forms, publish a Notice to Claimants in a newspaper, service Notices on beneficiaries that you are seeking this appointment, and file the application with the Court of Queen’s Bench. There is a lot of room for error in this multi-step process; an attorney can help ensure that your application is filed correctly the first time. 


What are the responsibilities of an executor or Administrator in Alberta?


The basic responsibilities include:


  • Filing for the death certificate. 
  • Locate all assets and debts.
  • Secure all assets.
  • Create an estate bank account.
  • Notify all beneficiaries. 
  • File the final tax return.
  • Pay the debts out of the estate.
  • Transfer or sell assets as required by law.
  • Distribute the estate as required by law.
  • Get a release from all beneficiaries.
  • Provide an accounting of your work.


If you are an administrator you may not possess the necessary skills and knowledge to complete the process correctly. We recommend working closely with a wills and estates attorney to ensure that the entire process is handled correctly from start to finish, ensuring that you avoid personal liability and challenges to your work as estate administrator. 


Why Merchant Law?


Most of our wills and estates lawyers have two to three years of experience handling wills, estates, the probate process, estate litigation, and more. Many of our attorneys have additional backgrounds in real estate law and business law, which can be extremely helpful to an executor or Administrator with a particularly complex estate to manage.

We’re responsive and kind, and work closely with you throughout the entire process to ensure that these legal matters get settled to the satisfaction of all. 


Call (780) 474-7777 to schedule an appointment today. 

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.

Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Merchant Law for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.