A guide to estate settlement in situations where there is no will

Has one of your loved ones died without a will? In spite of the sad circumstances, a number of steps must be taken to settle the deceased’s estate. Here is some advice taken from La Capitale’s blog that should make the process a little easier for you.


  1. Get professional help as soon as you feel it’s necessary

A number of professionals can guide you through the process. Don’t hesitate to contact a notary or a lawyer, or to ask a psychologist for help, if you feel overwhelmed by the situation.

  1. Ask for the death certificate

You can get it from the funeral home or the Directeur de l’état civil. You need this document to begin the estate settlement process.

  1. Conduct a will search

Even if you’re sure there’s no notarized will, you are required by law to conduct a search in the Barreau du Québec’s register of wills and the Chambre des notaires du Québec’s register of testamentary dispositions. You can carry out this mandatory step yourself or have it done by a notary.

Also look through the deceased’s personal effects, in case there’s a handwritten will. If the deceased was married, take a look at the marriage contract, as it may contain some testamentary clauses.

  1. Check the deceased’s insurance coverage

If the deceased had Legal Access insurance, contact the insurer to get information on the services and benefits available upon the insured’s death.

  1. Determine the heirs

When you get to this step, you should obtain the services of a notary or lawyer. In cases where there is no will, the Civil Code of Québec is used to determine the heirs and the share they will inherit.

  1. Appoint one or more liquidators

When someone dies without a will, all heirs are presumed to be liquidators of the person’s estate. However, in order for the process to go smoothly, it’s best to appoint one or a limited number of liquidators.

To carry out the tasks required of them, the liquidators may have to provide notarized identity verification.

  1. Proceed in a cautious, efficient manner

Settling an estate involves a number of required tasks and responsibilities. Detailed information in that regard is provided in various documents, including the guide prepared by Services Québec.

But while you’re attending to the duties required for settlement of the estate, keep in mind the fact that you are also responsible for the estate’s assets. You must thoroughly maintain the property and buildings belonging to the deceased. That includes insurance and prudent management of investments. Keep the documents relating to all the financial transactions you carry out as liquidator.

  1. If a deficit is associated with the estate, consult a notary or lawyer right away

In principle, if the appointed liquidators have followed the liquidation process mandated by law and no heir has taken possession of assets from the estate prior to closure of the inventory, the heirs should not have to assume the estate’s deficit.

Your legal advisor will analyze the estate file and give you an accurate synopsis of the situation. You can also find out from your legal advisor if it is possible or relevant for you to renounce the estate.

  1. Wait until all the liquidation steps have been completed before distributing the deceased’s property and assets

This precaution will protect your personal responsibility as liquidator, as well as that of the heirs.


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