An Easy Guide to Estate Paperwork after Losing a Loved One

An Easy Guide to Estate Paperwork after Losing a Loved One

Managing a loved one’s estate can be a significant responsibility. From locating the birth certificate to gaining access to the will, potentially rehoming a pet, closing bank accounts, and planning a funeral – completing the task and all the paperwork can take months or even years to complete.

The stage of life your loved one was at when they passed may influence the amount or type of documentation you need, and figuring out which documents those are can be overwhelming – especially as you’re attempting to gather these items while still processing your loss.

You’ll first need a death certificate to access many of these documents, and how you obtain one will vary by province.

Locate the Will

Next, you will need to locate the will if you haven’t already. The will is a legal document that names a person (executor) responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased.

No Will?

If there is no will, or you’re unable to locate a will, the process is much the same as if there were a will. The only difference you may encounter is if there was a large estate left behind. In this case, as the person tasked with managing the deceased’s estate, you may experience emotional claims from family members, which can make your job of distributing the assets much harder.

However, if the estate is relatively small and uncomplicated, it should be standard procedure.


This step isn’t always required and varies by province. If the estate is relatively small, probate isn’t necessary. An exception would be if there is any question about the will’s validity; the executor has died or is unable/unwilling to take on the responsibilities. In the case of a large estate, you will also likely need to go this route.

Most financial institutions will require a grant of probate, so it’s a good idea to assume you’ll need one. Another benefit of probate is that it shields you from unhappy heirs. If any of them feel like they have not been awarded appropriately their piece of the estate, you have the law on your side.

When a death is expected (and you know ahead of time that you’re the executor), it’s a good idea to start collecting the documents you’ll need early. Staying organized will pay off when it comes time to sell off properties, close down bank accounts, and dole out the inheritance(s).

A non-exhaustive list of documents you might need:

Are Expenses Adding Up?

Lawyer fees, accountant bills, court proceedings, time off work to manage everything, plus grief counseling can add up quickly.

If you find yourself in a position where you are responsible for covering the costs while managing a loved one’s estate, First Inheritance is here to help. We can offer probate loans and even give you an advance on your inheritance.

It’s a stressful time. You deserve to fulfill your loved one’s wishes without worrying about your finances. Your peace of mind is our top priority.

Reach out today and learn how First Inheritance can help.