How Long Can an Executor Wait Before Distributing an Estate?

An estate trustee has many duties with respect to the administration of a deceased’s estate. Before the beneficiaries of an estate have a legal entitlement to demand payment of their inheritance, an estate trustee generally has 12 months to administer the estate. This is referred to as the “Executor’s Year”.

This one-year period commences after the estate trustee obtains a “Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee”, formally naming them as the estate trustee for the estate in question, by the Superior Court of Ontario.

The Executor’s Year has two major functions, the first, is to remind estate trustees that they do not have the responsibility of administering the estate for an indefinite period of time. Beneficiaries have an interest in ensuring that the matters have concluded on a timely basis. The second is to remind beneficiaries that estates cannot be wound up overnight. This is especially so in cases where the estate has significant assets or liabilities and multiple parties involved.

While there is nothing that prevents an estate trustee from making an earlier distribution, if the year has passed and the beneficiaries have not received their entitlements, the beneficiaries can take action for unnecessary delay. While the terms of a deceased’s will often provide the estate trustee the discretion to determine when and how to liquidate the deceased’s estate, all debts of the estate must be satisfied before this is done.