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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Am I entitled to ask the executor for more detailed financials?

Do you ever wonder how a general legal rule or principle actually works in your situation? A reader who obviously knows the general rule that beneficiaries can see financial statements wrote to me to ask for specifics about how that rule works. This is something that beneficiaries ask fairly often so I thought it would of interest to many of you.

"I an wondering if I can request an executor to show me the Financials up to date. In what format should he dhow them or can he come up with a figure and a list of items not sold. I would like to see a list of sold items with the price he got, invoices and receipts for pay outs and work others have done. What am I entitled to see?"

The first question for me is whether or not you are a person who is entitled to see anything at all. If you are a residuary beneficiary of the estate, you are entitled to request financials, and the next part of my answer will go into more detail about that. If you are not a residuary beneficiary, you are not entitled to see anything.

Assuming you are in fact a residuary beneficiary, you are entitled to see a full accounting. There is no one format that applies everywhere, though there are certain elements that must be contained in an accounting no matter what format is used. The minimum of what you are entitled to receive is:
- an inventory showing what was in the estate when the deceased died
- a list of expenses, bills, etc that have been paid from the estate (including any amounts paid to beneficiaries and any amounts taken by the executor as fees)
- a list of all money coming into the estate, which is usually from the sale of assets (house, vehicle), cashing in of accounts and investments, and various small sums (CPP death benefit, refunds of subscriptions, cash lying around the house)

An executor doesn't usually produce copies of all invoices and receipts automatically, mostly to save time and money. However, you are fully within your rights as a residuary beneficiary to request copies of them. You can ask for any details that help you determine the current position of the estate, or to help you determine whether the estate is being handled properly. You can make this kind of request at any time during the administration of the estate.

Many executors seem to get upset when they are asked for details. I think they feel as if someone is questioning their honesty. But you are well within your rights to request details even if you have no reason to fear dishonesty on the part of the executor. The transactions on the estate determine what you are going to inherit so it's in your best interest to keep an eye on it.


  1. What if the executor is a relative who has had signing authority on bank accounts and credit cards. I'm assuming any financial transactions that took place prior to my father's death are not open for my viewing, but from the date of death forward I should have access to this information?

    1. A person who acted under a power of attorney must, when the person they represent passes away, give an accounting to the executor. When the POA and the executor are the same person, this pretty much never happens and it seems to upset them no end if you happen to ask for records.

      I assume that you're a beneficiary of your father's estate. If you're not, then you don't get access to anything. If you are, then you are entitled to see all records of what goes in and out of the estate.

      If you believe there were items or funds in your father's possession that didn't seem to make it into the estate, then certainly you have the right to ask the executor to show statements etc that show how he arrived at the opening inventory for the estate.


  2. In my case the accounting was easy. I actually created a secret Facebook group that had only but all beneficiaries as members. I used that to communicate with the other beneficiaries (all my siblings). I used that to help distribute the personal property by adding photos of items and allowing each beneficiary to put their name on items. The will stated what should happen if one or more person wanted any specific item. This worked well, when it came time to physically distribute items there were no surprises. I also use the page to keep everyone up to date on the finances and listed all transactions such as the house, car, pensions...etc. There is a complete up-to-date copy of the bank statement attached so that everyone knows what is going on.

    1. This is a really good idea. Thanks for describing it here, because I'm sure more than one executor will find it a useful suggestion. Willingness to communicate and to be transparent about your actions are the key, and using technology this way just makes it easy and convenient for everyone.


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