Dealing with finances after the death of a loved one

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult events we ever have to face. When it comes to emotional support, your friends and family, along with counselling services referred by your family doctor, can be a big help. 

death of a loved one - estate plan and will

However, support with the financial aspects of a loved one’s death can be harder to come by. These steps will help you cope with your loved one’s finances, helping reduce the stress during this difficult time.

Know who is the executor of the estate

Many of these items listed below are the responsibility of the executor of your loved one’s estate. Note that if you are named in the will as the executor, you don’t have to accept that responsibility. But if you do, you’re committed to the role from start to finish. Estates can take a long time to resolve, and may involve expenses that may or may not be reimbursed.

death of a loved one

An executor may also be referred to as an estate trustee, executor, liquidator and administrator. Their responsibilities can be extensive, including making funeral arrangements, getting appraisals on assets, paying all debts owed and dividing the estate.

Learn more about the executor’s role from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Contact your lawyer

This is a fundamental step, as your lawyer will help you probate the will —  meaning that the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench will confirm that the will is valid and that the executor can make decisions about the estate.

Of course, you will need a copy of the will and you will also need to carry out the instructions if you are the executor. This includes ensuring that money, property and investments from the estate are distributed as directed. You will also need to pay off creditors at this time.

death of a loved one - contact your lawyer

If your loved one died intestate (without a will), The Intestate Succession Act will come into effect. Since 50% of Canadians do not have a will, this is a common occurrence, and you should discuss this with your professional services providers.

Order a death certificate

A death certificate is required to provide legal proof of your loved one’s passing. You may need several copies of this document for a variety of organizations and reasons, including settling the estate. You can order a death certificate from the Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency

Note that a death certificate can take a long time to obtain, and you may need additional documents such as a marriage certificate to prove name changes and relationships as part of the request. While the death certificate is only required for some things, many institutions and organizations may also accept the Funeral Director’s Statement of Death.

related articles

6 simple answers to make estate planning easy 


Apply for life insurance payouts

If your loved one has life insurance, contact the company for claim forms to start the process of paying the beneficiaries. It’s important to locate the original policy documents and the listed advisor will help fill out the claim paperwork. 

The insurance company may require a number of things to complete the claim such as the death certificate, circumstances around the death, physician meetings over the last several years, and similar items. If your loved one passed away in the hospital, the insurance company may also require the attending physician to complete a form.

related articles

Why you need life insurance before a ‘stop sign moment’ 


Contact your loved one’s workplace


Find out if there are any salary payments/bonuses still due, group life insurance payouts and survivor pension payments. 

Notify government organizations


You will need to contact provincial and federal government agencies to notify them of a loved one’s passing. 

Federal agencies include Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada (for OAS and CPP payments, possible survivor benefits and the Social Insurance Number register), along with the Passport Program to cancel valid passports. 

Provincial agencies you need to contact include Manitoba Health, Manitoba Public Insurance (Licensing & ID) and Teranet Manitoba (regarding land titles and personal property registration). 

Contact financial institutions

Inform financial institutions of your loved one’s death and arrange the transfer of outstanding balances of chequing, savings and investment accounts. Note that beneficiaries may also be added to investments, which you’ll need to know about as part of the process. At ACU, you can open an estate account to transfer any balances into until the estate is settled. 

It’s also quite important to find all assets because you will have to file a final tax return. Sometimes missing RRSPs, GICs and other unknown assets can result in future tax return amendments being needed.

Help during this stressful time

Dealing with the death of a loved one is a difficult time, and addressing all of these items can be a big responsibility. Lean on others for support, and know that professional services are available to help where needed, even for advice and to point you in the right direction.

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Your ACU financial advisor can help you cover all the necessary financial bases when your loved one dies. Contact us today by phone, email or to book an appointment.


About James Burns

James Burns is a freelance writer and copywriter. With a background in journalism, financial services and marketing, he writes for a wide range of companies across the financial services spectrum. His articles and blogs provide financial advice and insights to both consumers and businesses.

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