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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Does an executor have to agree to beneficiaries' requests to see expenses and statements?

Does an executor have to agree to beneficiaries' requests to see expenses and statements?  This seems to be an ongoing struggle in way too many estates. I'm not sure whether executors are not seeking legal advice, or ignoring legal advice, or simply getting inadequate legal advice, but the conflict between executors and beneficiaries carries on. A reader recently asked me a question about the requirements of an executor. Here is his question, followed by my comments:

"Is it legal within Canada that the executor can refuse to let beneficiaries know what their expenses are, and also refuse to show bank account statements unless the beneficiaries sign release of funds documents? My brother is saying that he is not obligated to show any accounting until he is ready to disperse money. Is he lying?"

I couldn't say for sure whether he's lying, or whether he's simply mistaken, but in either case, he's wrong. An executor must be prepared to produce an accounting for residuary beneficiaries at any time. By "any time" I don't mean that the executor must produce it five minutes after being asked, but he or she should be able to provide it to the beneficiary in writing within a reasonable number of days.

The requirement to account arises from the fact that the executor is a trustee and fiduciary. The executor doesn't own the estate or the assets of the estate; he or she is simply a custodian and manager of the assets. The estate belongs to the beneficiaries and therefore they have the right to ask what is going on.

In my view, the beneficiaries have more than a right to ask what's going on; I believe they have an obligation to ask. There are no executor police. There's nobody at the court or in the government whose job it is to check up on what executors do. It's up to the beneficiaries to ensure that the executor named in the will is actually doing what he or she was appointed to do.

Having said that, let's look at it from the executor's point of view. It's not reasonable for beneficiaries to ask for every receipt and expense as the executor carries out his daily tasks. There are not enough hours in a day for an executor to report on each and every step he takes, as he takes it. Nobody has time to make or receive that many calls and emails. I always urge executors to set up an email mailing list for the beneficiaries, and to send a summary every two weeks, or once a month once things slow down, to keep everyone informed.

While an executor is not entitled to keep bank statements secret from residuary beneficiaries, the beneficiaries do have to let him get on with the work with some level of trust.

The normal procedure in most estates is for an executor to provide a full accounting at the end of the estate when he is ready to write the cheques. Perhaps when your brother was told this by the estate lawyer he took it to mean that he doesn't have to do anything different.

This doesn't mean that he can do as you said, which is "refuse to show bank account statements unless the beneficiaries sign release of funds documents". He has to show the statements and the rest of his accounting first. How on earth could a beneficiary approve of his transactions if the beneficiary isn't told what those transactions are? He has that bit backwards. Generally the accounting and the release document arrive together, at the end of the estate administration, but beneficiaries should not sign releases without studying the full accounts first. If he does not provide an accounting first, he can be compelled by the court to pass his accounts.

The fact that you asked if your brother is lying is proof of something I tell executors constantly - hiding what they're doing only causes suspicion and speculation. They just need to be open about it.


  1. Is there a standard release form? Where can the Executor get one for Ontario?

    1. No, there is no standard release that applies to everyone, everywhere. They vary from province to province. In Ontario, try this page from Ontario court services that contains pre-formatted forms prescribed by the rules of civil procedure:


    2. Lynne,

      Thanks for the link. While the site contains many useful forms, as far as I can tell, it doesn't include a release.

    3. Lynne my wife,s mother passed away in april 2017 and her sister was executor of their moms will and it stated in the will that everything was to be distributed evenly between the 2 sisters. well when it came time to do this the executor told my wife that their mom wanted to give 5000 to three grandchildren one being our daughter but this was not in the will and also we know that there was money invested but were told by the executor that she does not have to provide bank statements as was asked for by my wife can you elaborate on this and is there a timeframe to contest this.

    4. yes please send any advice to email above

    5. Not sure if you got the message on my question but i will retry.
      My wife,s mother passed away in april 2107 and her sister was executor of the will and in the will it stated that everything was to be divided evenly between the 2 sisters but when it came time to do this the executor said that before he mom passed away she wanted to give 3 grandchildren 5000 each with our daughter being one so she went against what the will said and we believe that wasn,t true because she had 2 kids and just wanted to give them something. my wife has asked for bank statements but was told that she the executor didn,t have to provide them.we know there were investments so if possible can you give us any information on this and is the executor legally bound to provide this information and is there a time frame on contesting.

    6. Your sister in law is wrong in pretty much everything she has said. She cannot give money to people who are not in the will. If she wants to give money to the grandchildren, she can do so out of her share. If she persists in giving out this money, legally this can be recovered from her personally.

      The executor should be providing the bank statements. Your wife is a residuary beneficiary and as such is entitled to a full accounting of the estate. If she will not respond to a written request from your wife, I suggest that your wife hire a lawyer to make the request.

      If she still won't give up the statements, at that point you must conclude that something fishy is going on because there is no reason for her to withhold them. If it goes to court to force her to give up the statements - and I think you'd win on that - the court will award costs against her for being so uncooperative.

      No, there is no specific deadline, but keep in mind that once the estate money is given out, it's a heck of a lot harder to get it back than it is to prevent it going out in the first place.

      Best of luck,

    7. If you want me to write an email to you giving legal advice, call my assistant and give her your credit card number. I don't work for free.


  2. Lynne
    As I have previously written I have the opposite problem, a beneficiary that is withholding Estate monies and won't provide financial accounting. A Trial date has been set to get that. To me there is absolutely no question that the beneficiaries have a right to financial info from the Executor. What is there to hide? I happen to be a beneficiary as well and I want that info. It is difficult to believe/understand the BS that goes on with this and the games being played, This includes 'lawyers' as well.

  3. I have two residuary beneficiaries that are 'Ridiculously Difficult' to deal with and won't even give out an address and keep changing their phone numbers. They 'both' live in another city (same city) in the province and don't seem to be interested in signing off or returning emails (email is ALL I have in terms of contact info for these two).

    As executor what should I do? Should I 'pay' to have a lawyer in that city hold on to the cheques and releases for both of them until they come in to sign or should I just do it like everyone else does (get a release, send the funds, kinda' thing.)

    Heck, I don't even know what these people look like, so I would assume that I'm going to have to get them show I.D. in the scenario above. I suppose I could also put the money in Trust for them until they finally decide they want to be 'found'. Either way, I'd like to get these two clowns to sign releases so I/ (we all) can get on with our lives. I suppose I could always ask the court to approve the accounting, but I'd rather not cost the Estate anymore than it has, especially since I'm basically at the home stretch in terms of finalizing this Estate.

  4. I am dealing with residual beneficiaries that claim it is their right to see the other parties signed releases before they sign theirs. Is this a legitimate request under Estate Law as they claim it be. I can only find that the Executor is to receive all the signed releases before funds are disbursed. Any assistance would be appreciated.

    1. No, I wouldn't consider that to be a legitimate request and it certainly is not the law. Residuary beneficiaries are entitled to a full accounting of your transactions on the estate, which don't appear to be in issue. Seeing the other people's releases doesn't add anything.


    2. I am in BC, and going through the same thing. Two beneficiaries have signed releases, but the third wants his (Ontario) lawyer daughter compose his complete release. In it, she is saying that he will be excluded should additional taxes/fees be accrued, he will be exempt, if they exceed the holdback, ($4,000.). We have told him that we are willing to sign a legal document that any additional costs will be paid in the same percentage as the residual funds are to be distributed-him 50%, my sister and I at 25% each. Taxes have all been paid and right now he is the only one adding costs to the minimal estate of $225k. He is paranoid that future taxes will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and thus, we cannot get even partial distribution. The deceased relatve was a mentally handicapped woman who was a ward of the court, and incapable of ever holding a job. It has been 3 years since her passing, and like others have mentioned, we, and the executor, just want to get on with our lives.

  5. Hi Lynne,
    My youngest brother is the executor of our mother's estate. We were quite shocked when we found out he is going to be paid for being an executor of the funds from the estate (50 - 75K), as it was never mentioned till quite later on. He actually did very little on his own other than shovel sidewalks, cut grass etc. until the house was sold. He did get all the assets and liabilities together for the estate lawyer. The house and garage were quite a mess and had so much stuff/junk in them that it took from October to July to clean out which we did on weekends when we had free time. My wife was not working so she did all the research on how much certain items were worth so they could be sold. Myself, my wife and my other brother spent many hours helping our executor brother with all of this. Are we also entitled to be paid for our time?

  6. Thank you Lynn for that advice much appreciated it helps immensely

  7. If the executor does not provide sale reciepts, invoices and contractsthen how can I aprove the financials the executor said he lost them.

    The lawyer sent me an email stating the executor is ready to release the estate funds if I sign an agreement form but I cannot prove the financials and the executor is asking 10% of the estate.

    Should i see a laywer?

    1. Most of the time, executors provide a summary of what has happened and does not provide all receipts, invoices, etc. But that doesn't mean you are not entitled to see them; you are entitled to.

      Also, 10% is double the allowed maximum of an estate, unless of course there has been something unusual such as litigation during the course of the estate.

      If he won't provide the information and you can't get it out of him any other way, then yes you'll probably have to hire a lawyer to help you.


  8. Does an executor have to provide bank statements from before death? While he was on joint with the deceased? Also she is claiming the joint account was hers because of right of survivorship.

  9. Hello Lynne

    I am having the same problem you wrote about, I made a friend of my father an executor of his estate after he passed away, I do not know him, but I didn't have anyone else, and he was the power of attorney, and he told me he wanted to be the executor.

    Well as soon as the papers were signed he just went on selling everything the way he wanted without my consent.

    Now he wants 10% of an already small estate, and he cannot produce a full set of financials, and he said he has done many jobs, like cutting the lawn etc.
    Basically I think he could have asked me if I was willing to pay for those jobs before he did them, and because this estate is three provinces away from me, I really have no proof that he did what he claims.
    Could you recommend something, or someone who deals with clients that live in another province, also would a lawyer take his payment from the estate or do I have to pay the lawyer up front.

  10. Hi. Lynn

    The executor has not sent me the complete financials.

    The first layer passes away, the lasers son emailed me that he was taking on the file.

    I told the son of the first lawyer that passed away that I could not sign the release form his father sent me as I cannot approve the financials, as there are missing reciepts, and statements.

    The 2nd lawyer emailed me saying he is not experienced enough to take on this file, and sent it off to another lawyer.

    So in the mean time all of this is costing money.

    The third lawyer sent me a release form to sign first lawyer to pay $1600.00 plus tax, 2nd lawyer to pay $1000.00 plus tax, and third lawyer to pay $700.00 plus tax.

    I email the third lawyer with the same request to review the financials, I asked to see the receipts, that correspondent with the cheque written by the executor.

    I just received an email with an added $1000.00 to the third lawyer, and told if I don't sign the release form, the executor has instructed them to go to the master of the Queen's bench for approval.

    Gosh all of these lawyers, and already 5 years past, this is a small inheritance only $30.000.00.

    I got really suspicious when the executor told me over the phone that he new the tow truck driver and that he would pay $50.00 dollars, but when I told the executor that he will have to produce reciepts before I would approve the financials, then he did produce a reciept but not for fifty dollars it was $350.00.

    also when the accepted it was selling the house somehow the wire that was interested called me on my home phone and offered to pay me some money under the table to get the house for a cheap price, she did not know what she was talking to the beneficiary.

    I thought this was kind of odd and that something was obviously going on behind my back as the executor was trying to coerce me into selling the house for very cheap to the neighbour and this person that called me was a friend of the neighbour.

    also the executor sold a truck that I initially wanted $3,500 for I lowered the price to 2400 to be sold as is.

    the executor went and did $1,100 and repairs in that truck plus he did a safety plus he sure the truck in his name and sold the truck for $2, 400.00

    use the kind of things that the executive was doing I told the executor you had no business to sell the truck as is for $2,400 that he needed to add $1,100 and repairs the amount he paid for the safety and the amount he paid to ensure that the truck so that I would not be at a loss this was not done and this is another reason why I am suspicious that the executor is doing things behind my back.

    There is a missing snowblower the executor paid $3,500 for a cremation there's a $1,500 administration fee in the invoice that I received when I asked for a breakdown of this amount he said that the funeral director would not give me a breakdown and I thought this was kind of odd this is a small town where everybody kind of knows each other and the executor is on the board at the church and no kind of things like this.

    because the executive gave me such a hard time and forcing me into selling the house so cheap and selling the vehicles and everything else the yard sale that prices that he wanted that its Outlook to me that he was selling everything very very cheap and maybe profiting himself.

    Ready right now I received this email from the third lawyer and everything just seems to be going up and up and up and I don't know what to do do you have any suggestions I really like to hear from you.

  11. How does an Executor wind up an Estate when one beneficiary has disappeared? My oldest brother had loans which ate up most of the value of his share. The police can find him as a missing person, but he is unwilling to contact me, the Executrix.

    1. I know you don't want to keep the estate open forever. That makes no sense, of course. One possibility is to pay the funds to the Office of the Public Trustee in your province. They will keep it for a certain number of years. If your brother contacts them within that time, he will be able to receive his inheritance. Give the Public Trustee's office a call to see if they will do this.


  12. Hi Lynne,
    Thank you for having this information available. It is hard to find straight answers online.
    If the estate has not been settled yet, is there a standard way that a beneficiary can ask for a statement of account? I am afraid that if I ask for a statement of account, the executor won't know what I mean. I was hoping for a definition or if I can just advise him to show us bank statements?
    Thank you.

    1. I suppose it's possible that the executor won't know what it means to provide an accounting, though I've yet to meet one who had no idea at all.

      Asking for bank statements is not really the right question. For one thing, the estate may well have assets other than bank accounts and so you wouldn't get a full picture of the estate.

      A proper accounting should be a record of everything that the executor has done on the estate since the day he or she took over. So, ideally you should have the following:
      1. An inventory of everything in the estate on the day the testator died.
      2. A ledger that shows every dollar that came in and every dollar that went out. This is usually in chronological order. It includes large items such as money from the sale of a house, but also smaller items such as bank charges. This is where you will see things like fees paid to lawyers, probate fees paid to the court, cost of the funeral, bills paid etc.

      This is the sort of information you should request. If the executor is not sure what you want, maybe print this answer and show him.


  13. I am a residual beneficiarary of my late aunts estate and have been requesting to view the accounts for the last year. She passed November of 2017. My brother is the sole executor of her estate.
    My aunt assisted in setting up 3 intrust accounts for my daughters totalling $50,000. The accounts were set up as joint "intrust" GICs The executor removed
    the origianal certificates when my aunt passed away. When I inquired to the executor about the intrust accounts he told me that my aunt was the sole owner of the certificates and my daughters had no rights to the money. As I was not the executor I could not receive the information from the bank. I received a letter from the estate lawyer in August of 2018
    indicating that the accounts would be paid out from the estate but they would come from 50% of my portion of the residual estate and 50% from his
    portion of the estate as the other residual beneficiarary. I was a little confused and wondered why these accounts would form part of my aunts estate. At this point I retained the services of an estate lawyer to sort out the intrust accounts and to press for a summary of the accounts in the estate.
    My lawyer quoted Koons vs. Quebell court ruling and the Trimark info on intrust accounts and requested estate information be provided by November 2018,
    The executor did not respond to the lawyers letter. In April of 2019, I brought a motion to pass accounts, My brother then hired a another lawyer using estate
    funds to respond the motion to pass accounts. He proposed mediation and an informal accounting. The executor now agreed the estate did not own the intrust accounts, but has yet to pay them out or correct the probate accounting. The executor was claiming travel expenses of $15,000 To support his
    claim he provided his vacation schedule. There were no gas travel log...just a vacation schedule. There were further irregularities in the
    bank ledgers, my lawyer asked for an explanation ..he did not respond...that was July 2019. The executor provided a random column of numbers
    totalling $27,000 for household expenses with no explanation or receipts. The executor borrowed $40,000 during my aunts life time which she indicated to me was still owed at the time of her death..and of course not listed in the will...he made up some
    elaborate story that he had performed renos and
    purchased materials to repay the aunt had a cheque book which she kept showing cancelled cheques that would have proven she paid for
    materials ...the executor removed those cheque books and bank records only go back 7 years...he claims he has no receipts showing he paid for the materials. His claim is outrageous as he weighs 500 pounds and can barely walk..but states he repaired shutters on a second storey, performed brick work
    repair and replaced eavestrough on a two storey home...I can't view these cancelled cheques, he won't show them to me without a court order. I have
    not been supplied with a proper accounting and the intrust accounts remain unsettled. I have paid $8,000 in legal fees and have waited more than 2 years for answers..not even a penny has been released.
    So you do have rights as a residual beneficiarary, but you better have a war chest of money to exercise
    those are at the mercy of the executor. He holds all the cards, he can lie, withhold information, cheat and delay. Even with the help of
    a lawyer, and a chest of money you still really don't have any rights.

  14. Hi Lynne
    My father passed away in 2008.
    The executor came to my home took vehicle ownership.. wallet..cheque books..the death benefit cheque..
    everything..i was gifted his pick up truck The cremation bill was paid for 1,600 and she refused to allow the rest of the death benefit to go towards an urn or a funeral service.
    She states that she could not find any beneficiaries for 12 yrs. now.
    My eldest brother is now deceased. My other two siblings have given up contacting her for theirs and she has never once returned my calls emails. Or answered any of my requests for mine. My 2 sons are the residuary benificiaries and one turned 21 a month ago.
    Instead of setting up an account for them to allow it to grow.she put it in her lawyers account
    The estate was very small. $16,000
    She paid herself $3,000 and no beneficiaries got theirs.
    The pick up truck sat in my driveway and seized up. She was to inform me at the time of his death that i was the sole beneficiary of his td waterhouse account.
    She did not inform me until over a year later by sheer accident she let it slip out.
    In that year I lost 46,000 in stocks. It was 79,000 at the time of death.
    She now wants me to sign a form stating I wont sue her. The monetary loss and the loss of the truck is a huge loss to me.
    She claims we all moved right after his death so she couldnt find anyone.
    That is so not true.
    She has never acted in good faith on any of our behalfs.
    Everyone contacted her numerous times begging for closure.
    She claims that how could she ever organize a funeral if none of us could b found. My brother has lived at the same address 37 years..I lived at the same address she took everything from for many more years and my sister still lives at her address.
    She NEVER contacted anyone in 12 years now.
    One is long dead and the other 2 dont want theirs at this point. They gave up. My 2 children are left out of 6 beneficiaries and to be honest this has been so cruel and upsetting for 12 years I am now giving up.
    To me and my family she has failed her fudiciary duty miserably.
    I stated to my 21 year old yesterday when he went in to see about his money that my father said he never trusted any of us only her. That we are all crazy. He is traumatized and funny how I took my father into my home to care for him. He entrusted me with his td waterhouse account and he retired his final racehorse to me as he was so worried hed have to euthanize him so he knows where he is.
    I have maintained that horse for going on 13 yrs. Now and still have him in my barn.
    I have more than proved I am trustworthy not crazy. My father and I were very close. And I am now so hurt by all of this. Her misconduct and negligence braught it to this point. I
    am sick over this. I am terminally ill myself and guess I will never have closure before I die.
    I guess she gets to keep everything because my siblings myself and my children are mortified and its not worth the hurt.

    1. That's a terrible story. It shows how one person can screw up so many others just by ignoring the rules. The reality is that when someone is that bad, the only way you're going to get your inheritance is to force her to give it to you. And that usually means using the courts to get it.

      I get the feeling there were some things you could have done for yourself if you'd had legal advice. For example, the truck was in your driveway. Why was it left there to seize up? Why did all of you let this go for 13 years without ever taking steps to force her to do what's right?

      This really does sound painful and awful. If you want to change the situation, consider getting a lawyer. You and your son and anyone else who wants to set this right should pool together so that you share the cost.


  15. Can a Beneficiary ask to see bank statements of the deceased prior to their death? We have presented an account of informal accounting of the deceased but now they are asking for accounting records of the deceased prior to death.

  16. Hi Lynne, Thank you for all the great information. My sister refuses to give financial statements to myself and other sister, we are both beneficiaries and live in 2 separate provinces.My older sister is executor and controls banking.
    Is legal action required and should we use estate lawyer on will?
    We are concerned about funds disappearing, very concerned.
    Regards Wayne


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