What is "Good Faith" in Probate and Estate Law in Edmonton?

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The property that a person leaves behind when they die typically becomes the responsibility of a Personal Representative. Formerly known as an estate executor, the Personal Representative acts on behalf of the deceased to manage and distribute the estate according to the deceased’s wishes, as laid out in their last will and testament. 

The Personal Representative is expected to act “honestly and in good faith,” as outlined in the Estate Administration Act (EAA) of Alberta. This article explores the duties of a Personal Representative, as well as what “good faith” means within the context of probate and estate law in Edmonton.

For detailed information, as well as insights into your own circumstances in an estate administration matter, contact our Edmonton estate administration lawyers today to set up a consultation.

A Personal Representative’s Core Tasks

According to the EAA, the Personal Representative is responsible for completing the following core tasks:

  • Identifying the estate assets and liabilities
  • Administering and managing the estate
  • Satisfying the estate’s debts and obligations
  • Distributing and accounting for the administration of the estate

A Personal Representative is expected to distribute assets to the beneficiaries of the deceased, as outlined in the deceased’s will. What happens if you die without a will? In this case, the Personal Representative distributes the estate in accordance with the rules set out in the Wills and Succession Act. 

When there is a will, the Personal Representative is responsible for acting with utmost respect of the deceased’s wishes. There is a great deal of freedom in what a person can decide to do with their property after they die. There are some limits, but in general any challenges to a deceased person’s wishes must be reasonably justified.

This means the Personal Representative must act, as their title underlines, as a representative of the deceased, regardless of their personal preferences as to the estate distribution.

A Personal Representative’s Duties

The general duties of a Personal Representative, as set forth in the EAA, are to perform their role with a commitment to honesty and good faith, working in accordance with the wishes of the deceased as set out in their will (if there is a valid will). The Personal Representative must act reasonably and with “the care, diligence and skill” that can be expected under comparable circumstances. They must distribute the estate “as soon as practicable.”

The Personal Representative holds fiduciary responsibility before the estate’s beneficiaries, and is required by law to act in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. They cannot act independent of the will, making their own decisions as to how the estate is to be distributed. 

The provision of distributing the estate “as soon as is practicable” offers reasonable leeway for the timeline of estate administration, as circumstances can vary vastly. However, the Personal Representative remains obligated to act within reason, and may face scrutiny should they fail to perform their duties to a reasonable standard. 

Contact our Edmonton estate litigation lawyers for more information on how this may be relevant in your case.

What Is Good Faith in Probate and Estate Law?

Good faith is an organizing principle that means a person entering into an agreement or a relationship enters into it with the honest intention of fulfilling the promises and obligations of that agreement or relationship.

For a Personal Representative, good faith involves working with honest intentions in the execution of a deceased person’s will. It means being honest and transparent in the calculations of an estate’s assets, and acting on a reasonable timeline given the circumstances of the estate.

If a Personal Representative is found to be acting in bad faith, against the wishes of the deceased and the benefit of the beneficiaries, they may be removed from their duties. To learn more on how to remove an executor from a will in Alberta, contact our Edmonton estate administration lawyers today and set up your initial consultation.

Contact Our Edmonton Civil Litigation Lawyers Today For a Consultation

Being a Personal Representative in Alberta comes with a set of responsibilities, duties, and obligations. Depending on the circumstances of the estate and the wishes of the deceased, the Personal Representative’s role may be more or less complicated. One throughline in the Personal Representative’s responsibilities is their requirement to act in good faith. 

To learn more, including how you might navigate your own probate and estate matter, contact our Edmonton estate administration lawyers today to set up an initial consultation.

** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of probate and estate law, and is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with an Alberta estate administration lawyer.

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