As of January 1, 2015, the Ministry of Finance now requires executors of an estate to file an Estate Information Return. This return is in addition to any income tax returns or probate applications that are already the responsibility for the executor. This additional step in an Estate Trustee’s responsibilities is likely to make the role of the Estate Trustee more burdensome than the already hefty task of administering an estate.
The Ministry has the ability to collect this information with respect to estates under the Estate Administration Act. This information assists the Ministry in calculating the assessed value of the estate, as well as enabling them to catalog all of the reported assets.
Who has to file?
Generally, any individual who receives a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (also known as an Estate Certificate or Probate) after January 1, 2015, is required to file an Information Return. An Information Return is required even for estates that are exempted from estate administration tax (i.e. those estates valued at < $1,000).
There are exceptions to the requirement to file, for example, where it is a Succeeding Estate Trustee (i.e. they are not the first Estate Trustee), or where it is an Estate Trustee during Litigation. The other exceptions are listed in the Estate Information Return Guide, which is accessible from the Ministry website:
When does it have to be filed?
One important point to note is that there is a 90 day deadline for the filing of the return after the Certificate is received. As the Ministry is only open during the weekdays during bankers hours, if the executor cannot deliver it in person, it is important that it be sent via fax or some other form of registered mail to ensure there is proof of the time of filing. Penalties can include a fine of up to $1,000 for failure to file the return within the appropriate time.
Where estimated values are provided in the initial return, an undertaking is provided to the Ministry that requires a final value of the assets of the estate and payment of any difference in estate administration tax. An amended return must be filed within 30 days following the filing of the initial return with the final valuation of the estate assets, along with the payment for any changes in the estate administration tax.
Is the Estate Trustee’s job done once its filed?
The information returns may be subject to an audit by the Ministry for up to four years after it is filed. It is important that all of the assets of the estate are listed, so the Estate Trustee can protect themselves and to ensure the proper amount of estate administration tax is paid.
Does every asset have to be included?
Items that do not have to be included are joint accounts or property that is held with a right of survivorship. Insurance policies and RRSP designations that pass to beneficiaries directly (i.e. are outside of the will) also do not have to be included. Debts are not included in the calculation of the value of the estate, and should not be taken into account when assessing the value of assets (except real property). For example, if a car was owned by the deceased, any outstanding car loan is not used to reduce the estimate value of the vehicle.
Real Estate is dealt with in Section D of the Estate Information Return. Note that the return is only concerned with property situated in Ontario. Any property located outside of Ontario is not included in the value of the estate, and will require separate proceedings in the jurisdiction where the property is situated.
Other assets, such as bank accounts, vehicles, and investments must be included in the return, no matter the location of the account and/or asset.
The task may seem daunting for those who have never been an estate trustee before. The return adds the step of self-reporting all of the assets that the prudent Executor would have catalogued in any case.
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This article is of a general nature and is not intended to be a complete statement of the law or legal advice and does not in any way create a solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the writer. If you need any assistance with your own estate planning needs or require any support navigating your role as an estate trustee it is always advisable to consult with a lawyer. Please contact the law office of Banks & Starkman who would be pleased to assist you in the preparation and filing of the Estate Information Return.
Estate Information Return Guide
Estate Information Return
Submit returns to:
Ministry of Finance
33 King Street West
PO Box 625