Alivio Downsizing

Estate Clearing: A Checklist for Executors

Have you been named an executor? At Alivio Solution, we understand how at a time such as this, the responsibility given to you may feel staggering. This is why we have compiled a step-by-step checklist for executors, to help you through estate clearing, one step at a time.

This includes more than simply how to clear the estate itself. From who needs to be notified to which documents to look for and keep safe throughout the estate-clearing process, Alivio Downsizing has you covered.

Gather Important Documents

Before beginning to sort through belongings, it is important to keep a record of all estate-related activities. There is a lot to keep straight and undoubtedly, it is important to stay organized and on track. Have a notebook easily accessible for any note-taking or reminders.

Then, you may begin to gather every important document and store them in a safe place. This includes but is not limited to anything related to healthcare, income taxes, insurance, benefits, and financial services/accounts. Such as:

𝥷 Last Will and Testament

𝥷 Government Related Information (Health card, Driver’s License, Social Insurance Number)

𝥷 Home and Property Information (Utilities, mortgage, leases, deeds, titles, vehicle registrations)

𝥷 Employment/Pension Information/Business Documents

𝥷 Banking and Investment Information

𝥷 Obtain Tax Slips and other tax-related papers (T4, property tax bills, tax assessments, etc)  

𝥷 File Income Tax Return(s) with the Canada Revenue Agency (For more information about preparing returns for a deceased person, click here). 

 Depending on the condition of the estate, locating these documents may prove to be difficult. If need be, go through one pile of paper, one file folder, or one area at a time. Use a designated “special” bin to collect any papers you need to keep safe, placing them in an organized area of the home.  

If you create a file folder system to sort the papers as you go, wonderful! If you wish to simply have one pile of “to keep and sort” papers to go through at a later time, that works too. Work in an organized fashion that you are comfortable with.

 If there are piles that consist of ads, newspapers, magazines, or paperwork that is not important, recycle what you can as you go to clear up space and show your progress. For peace of mind, you can shred or otherwise destroy any papers containing personal or sensitive information such as certain receipts.

☑ Notify the CRA

At this time, the CRA should be notified of the date of death by calling 1-800-959-8281 or by filling out the form to request an update to their records. At the same time, request that the CRA stop benefit and credit payments (GST/HST credit, working income tax benefit advance payments, Canada child benefit, etc.) and transfer them to a survivor if applicable.

You may have a legal representative who will handle all matters relating to the CRA. If so, ensure that you are named as the executor should the need to contact you arise.  

Notify Creditors, Beneficiaries, and Other Claimants

A notice to creditors, beneficiaries, and other claimants should state that anyone having a claim against the estate must send the information to the administrator/executor.

In the past, this notice was to be posted for six weeks at the First Nation office, the post office, and in any other location where the deceased carried on business. The most popular method of posting such a notice was through the local newspaper. Now, depending on your province, you may be able to publish notices online.

Prepare an Inventory of All Assets and Debts

  • Make a complete list of all assets, their approximate value, and all valid debts against the estate.  
  • Contact banks to notify them of the death and ask them to advise as to whether the deceased held any accounts, safety deposit boxes, or other securities.
  • Notify service companies (such as electric and phone companies) of the death and ask them if there are outstanding balances.
  • Determine whether the deceased had life insurance, death benefits, or a pension

Protect Assets and Valuables

Verify that all assets are protected by completing the following tasks as needed:

  • Freezing and eventually closing all bank accounts
  • Canceling all credit cards
  • Assess Claims Against Estate and Verify Debts
  • Verifying Life Insurance Status- Proceeds are usually paid to the beneficiaries or the estate
  • Ensure vehicles or homes are properly insured
  • Arrange for building/home repairs where there are safety issues
  • Ensure mortgage payments are up to date
  • Harvesting any crops or feeding livestock, if applicable
  • Check the status of any storage used for cars, boats, recreational vehicles, tractors, campers
  • Place cash, securities, art and antiques, and jewelry in a secure place and organize their safekeeping
  • Private company shares, intellectual property, and cryptocurrency 
  • Canceling licenses or leases, if need be
  • Arrange for mail forwarding in case any important documents are delayed or otherwise lost

Open an Estate Trust Account

At the bank of your choosing, create or change an existing bank account so that there is an estate trust account to gather all of the estate’s funds.

Determine How Assets will be Distributed

If there is a last will, assets will be distributed according to these documents.  It is important to ensure the will has been properly interpreted so future issues do not arise.  If there is no existing will, the estate will be distributed to the next of kin by the government using the provincial laws in place.

Once this has been determined, send a proposal for distribution to any heirs/beneficiaries to seek their approval. This proposal should include:

  • List of assets to be distributed and their estimated value
  • List of debts to be paid and other liabilities
  • An explanation of how the estate will be distributed (according to the will)
  • A calculation of the heirs/beneficiaries’ shares
  • An outline of how the assets will be applied to debts and the remainder distributed to heirs/beneficiaries.  

Needless to say, there are many legal components and financial aspects to this. It is always advised to speak to a legal representative to ensure everything is being done according to the laws and the deceased’s wishes. 

Clean Out The Estate

Once the assets have been distributed appropriately, it’s time to clean out the estate.  This involves making a plan for how to tackle each room in the home.  It is best to place items in three categories- keep, donate, and sell.  Anything not fitting into one of these categories should be disposed of properly rather than automatically thrown into the garbage.

For a more in-depth look at how to liquidate and clean out an estate, we have compiled a guide which can be found here.  

Obtain a Clearance Certificate

According to the Government of Canada, having a clearance certificate confirms that either an estate of the decedent, a trust, or a corporation has paid all amounts owed or the Minister of National Revenue has accepted security as payment in terms of income tax, GST/HST, and interests/penalties.  

While it isn’t a legal requirement, this allows the executor to distribute assets without being personally responsible or liable for any unpaid amounts owed to the CRA by the deceased. A clearance certificate may also be requested by the financial institution or lawyers. The distribution of the estate shouldn’t occur until this certificate has been obtained by the CRA. 

To acquire a clearance certificate, the executor is advised to fill out Form TX19 and file it along with any corresponding documents. This may include a copy of the will, proof that the executor is the chosen legal representative, and a statement of estate assets.  

It is best to plan for a delay while these documents are processed by the CRA. With all the necessary documents being provided, this process may take up to 120 days. However, other reports have stated that it can take six months. It is best to request a time frame while submitting the documents. 

If the CRA hasn’t responded within the estimated time frame given, it is advised to contact them as the executor. This is simply to ensure that all of the necessary information has been received and that the application hasn’t been misfiled or somehow lost.  Depending on the situation, an audit may also need to be done before issuing the certificate. More information about clearance certificates and how to apply for one can be found here.

Would You Like Further Assistance?  We Can Help!

Understandably, this can seem like a lot to manage and take care of.  This can be especially true if this is your first time handling such affairs.  Alivio Downsizing help!  Our team of experienced professionals is available to simplify the entire estate-clearing process.  For more information, please contact us by email at: or call us at (437) 329-6873.