Alberta Probate: How Long?

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How Long Does Probate Take in Alberta?

Many people have heard of probate but aren’t quite sure what it entails. The term ‘probate’ is often used in broad reference to what we call the Estate Administration process. Estate Administration is the process of distributing a deceased’s assets upon death in accordance with their Will and Alberta Estate laws.

Alberta Grants of Probate

The Estate Administration process often requires the Executor, or Personal Representative, of the Estate to apply for what’s called a Grant of Probate. If you’d like to learn more about when probate is necessary, check out our detailed article on that topic here.

A Grant of Probate is a legal document, issued by the Surrogate Division of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, which confirms the Executor’s authority to distribute the deceased’s Estate. It also confirms the validity and authenticity of the deceased’s Last Will.

Let’s Assume…

For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that you’re an Estate Executor who requires a Grant of Probate, and that you intend to have a lawyer apply for the Grant on your behalf. The following summarizes the steps of the probate application process and provides an estimated timeline of events.

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So, What are the Steps for Probate in Alberta, and How Long Does It Take?

Step 1: Locating the Deceased’s Will (1-2 days)

If you have reason to believe that you’re entitled, by law or by virtue of the deceased’s Will, to act as the Executor of the deceased’s Estate, the first step is to conduct a search for the deceased’s Will.

Step 2: Contact an Alberta Wills & Estates Lawyer (15 minutes)

Even if you were unsuccessful in locating the deceased’s Will, it’s important to contact an Alberta Wills & Estates Lawyer to determine whether you’re entitled to act as Executor and to book an initial consultation. Many probate lawyers will email you a questionnaire to complete at this stage of the process.

Step 3: Complete the Questionnaire (2-3 hours)

Depending on how detailed your probate lawyer’s questionnaire is, it may take you 2-3 hours to complete the questionnaire in advance of your initial consultation.

Step 4: Attend an Initial Consultation (1 hour)

The probate lawyers at West Legal offer free-of-charge, no-obligation, one-hour consultations to potential Estate Executors. We will review your completed questionnaire with you, answer any questions you may have, and discuss the next steps. We’ll also provide you with an overview of the probate process and give you a list of the documentation we require to complete your application.

Step 5: Information Gathering (1-2 days)

Once your Wills & Estates lawyer has confirmed that you’re entitled to act as the Estate’s Executor, you’ll need to gather the required documentation. The required documentation may include a death certificate, bank statements, investment reports, life insurance policies, vehicle registration documents, and various other paperwork.

Step 6: Second Appointment with Your Lawyer (1 hour)

This step is optional. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary documentation, you may choose to scan and email it to your lawyer. At West Legal, we’ll set up a second appointment for you at no additional charge to review the provided documentation and take copies of the same for our file, should you prefer an in-person meeting to email.

Step 7: Drafting the Probate Application (2 weeks)

The probate lawyers at West Legal strive to draft probate applications within 2 weeks of receiving all necessary information and documentation from the client. In exceptional cases this may not be possible, however, we typically meet or exceed the 2-week timeline we give ourselves.

Step 8: Signing the Probate Application (30-60 minutes)

Once the application has been drafted, your probate lawyer will meet with you to go over the application and have you sign it.

Step 9: Submitting the Probate Application (2-3 business days)

The time frame for this step may vary somewhat between law firms, but West Legal strives to have your application submitted to the Surrogate Court within 2-3 business days of signing.

Step 10: Waiting for the Grant of Probate (1-6 Months)

Once your probate application is submitted to the Surrogate Court, your probate lawyer has little control over the timeline. The Court may take up to 6 months to issue a Grant of Probate, depending on how busy they are. However, in our experience, the typical waiting period falls somewhere in the 6-14 weeks range. In rare cases, we’ve received a Grant within 3 weeks of submitting an application.

Step 11: Meet with Your Probate Lawyer (1 hour)

Once the Grant is issued, we typically meet with the client to provide them with several Certified True Copies the Grant.

Step 12: Proposed Distribution, Compensation Schedule, and Releases (2-3 weeks)

Once the Grant is issued, you’ll need to provide your probate lawyer with account statements running from the date of the deceased’s death to the date of the first release, for all Estate assets. Your lawyer will discuss your distribution options with you and create a proposed distribution table for you on that basis. If you’re being compensated for acting as Executor, your lawyer may also create a compensation schedule. Once your probate lawyer has all the necessary financial statements, they’ll also draft releases for each beneficiary to sign.

Step 13: Gather and Distribute Estate Assets (1-12 months)

In order to gather Estate assets, you’ll likely need to provide copies of the Grant of Probate to the Land Titles Office, banks, and other financial institutions. Once your probate lawyer has received signed releases back from all Estate beneficiaries, you’ll distribute the Estate according to the proposed distribution table. Depending on the circumstances, this process can be completed quite quickly, however, some Estates require multiple distributions, and it may take a year or more before all Estate assets have been liquidated and distributed.

Step 14: File all Necessary Tax Returns and Obtain a Clearance Certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) (6-12 months)

There are a number of tax-related filings that an Executor needs to make. It’s best to consult with your tax accountant, who can advise and assist you with preparing all necessary returns and obtaining a clearance certificate.

General Considerations

The above timeline is a general sequence of how we typically proceed with a ‘garden-variety’ probate application. However, every Estate is different, and there are various intermediary steps that may be necessary in your situation that haven’t been addressed above.

It’s also worth considering that some of the above-named steps can be completed simultaneously. For example, you may choose to consult with your tax accountant early on, rather than waiting until the Estate has been distributed to do so.

We’re Here to Guide You Each Step of the Way

While the above may seem daunting, the experienced probate lawyers at West Legal are able to guide you through each step of the probate process. Reach out to us today to set up your free-of-charge consultation—we’d appreciate an opportunity to guide you through the challenges of the probate process.

Contact a Calgary Probate Lawyer today or 403-723-0175 to get started.

11 Responses

  1. Sherry

    I am an inheritor of my mom’s will I wat to buy the house from other 3 syblings from will inheritance (my) share .who completes the paper work is it the probate lawyer they know the property already and family in herintance and is the sale of the home distributed the ( inheritance distributed ..who does that)

  2. Bonnie

    How can I find out if my Dad’s will has been probated if the executor (his spouse) is not telling me anything and I don’t know my Dad’s attorney’s name, all I know is that my Dad stated that he made me sole beneficiary of his will before he passed,, Can you tell me how I can find this out for sure

    Thank you for your time,, I’m just wanting to know what I can do when no one is saying anything

    1. Hi Bonnie,

      Thank you for your email. If the Personal Representative (aka Executor) is following proper procedures, all residuary beneficiaries are to receive a copy of the full probate application at the time (or prior to) the application being submitted to the Surrogate Court. The application will tell you all the details of the estate such as the name of the lawyer assisting with the probate application, the estate assets and liabilities, and the distribution of the estate. If you are the sole beneficiary, and there are assets in your father’s name alone to be distributed according to his will, you should undoubtedly receive a copy of the full application.

      If you did not receive a copy of the probate application there are a number of possible explanations outside of your father’s spouse simply not sharing the information with you. Perhaps your father changed his will and did not advise you of the changes (and you are no longer the sole beneficiary). Or perhaps all of his assets were jointly owned with his spouse or some other third party so there is no probate application required. If you want to know if an application has been filed, reach out to the clerks at the Surrogate Court to see if they are able to provide any information. If they are unable to help, you may consider having a lawyer write a letter on your behalf to your father’s spouse to request the information you are seeking, and if that is unsuccessful, perhaps a court application would be appropriate to obtain the information you are seeking.

      I hope this is helpful for you.

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