It is important that the most recent legal will be located as soon as possible. The will specifies who becomes the executor (also called the personal representative).
According to the Intestate Succession Act, if there is no will the estate goes to the deceased's legally married spouse, adult interdependent partner and other relatives in order of their blood relation. If there is no will and there are no known relatives, the Public Trustee may administer the estate.
This is usually filled out at the funeral home when the funeral arrangements are being made. It is a permanent legal record of the death. It is the responsibility of the spouse, next of kin or person who has full knowledge of the facts surrounding the person who has passed away to complete a Registration of Death Form.
Vital Statistics uses the information on the Registration of Death Form to create an official Certificate of Death. The executor/personal representative or other eligible person should order a Certificate of Death. Many organizations will require this document before decisions can be made on behalf of the deceased. Until you obtain the Certificate of Death, the funeral director will issue a Statement of Death that you can use.
This will have been completed by an attending physician or medical examiner. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will sometimes become involved in the case of an unexplained or sudden death. You can order a photocopy of the Medical Certificate of Death from Vital Statistics if you wish.
You will probably want to hire a lawyer to help you with the legalities of handling the will and estate. If you don't already have a lawyer, you can find one through the Lawyer Referral Service of the Law Society of Alberta. If necessary, Legal Aid can help you find and pay for a lawyer. A lawyer can provide you with a complete list of the legal rights and responsibilities of an executor/personal representative.
You need to file any necessary returns for the deceased, pay any tax owing and obtain an Income Tax Clearance Certificate before distributing the estate.