A loved one has passed away and left you a portion of their estate in their will...

You may have just been contacted by the liquidator in charge and are wondering what this means for you now. In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about the liquidator, his or her role in the estate and how it affects you as a legatee or as an heir.

What is the role of the liquidator in Quebec?

The liquidator is the person who carries out the wishes expressed in the testator's will. He or she is also responsible for paying debts and taxes, as well as distributing the property to the legatees and heirs. In addition, he or she may also act on behalf of the deceased's business and financial interests. The testator appoints the liquidator to administer the estate after his or her death and to ensure that the testator's wishes are carried out. This person is also called an "executor" in other parts of Canada. 

What are the duties of the liquidator?

Here are some examples of the most important duties of a liquidator:

  • Paying the debts of the estate
  • Distribute assets to the heirs and legatees
  • Selling assets and/or businesses (if necessary)
  • Filing final tax returns
  • Communicating with heirs and legatees
  • Arranging funeral and burial arrangements

To learn more about the role of a liquidator

How is a liquidator chosen?

Anyone who has reached the age of majority (18 in Quebec) can be chosen as liquidator. The liquidator is usually someone close to the testator (e.g., spouse, sibling) or a friend, but the person may also appoint a company or a professional (such as a lawyer or notary) to act in this role.

What are the rights of a liquidator?

The liquidator is entitled to remuneration. If this remuneration is not provided for in the will, he or she can demand it and it will be up to the legatees and heirs to determine it.

However, if the liquidator is one of the legatees, he or she cannot demand remuneration. In this case, the liquidator is entitled to remuneration only if it is indicated in the will or if the legatees decide to give him or her remuneration. 

What are the rights of a legatee?

According to Quebec law, "a legatee by particular title has the right to deliberate and exercise his option with respect to the legacy made to him, with the same effects and according to the same rules.” This means that your rights as heir apply to the property left to your name in the will, but not to the rest of the estate. 

Recourse against the liquidator 

Who supervises the liquidator of an estate? 

The liquidator's work must be supervised by the legatees and the heirs. There are several ways to supervise this process: 

  • Request a copy of the will
  • Requesting an inventory of the estate
  • Consult the supporting documents for the inventory
  • Requesting the annual and final accounting

If the legatee or the heir is still unable to assess the situation with these documents, he or she has the option of consulting his or her own notary at his or her own expense. In the event of a dispute, the legatee or heir may also consult a lawyer. 

How do I challenge a liquidator?

Challenging a liquidator is a complex legal recourse, because the court must go against the last wishes of the testator and appoint someone else. The court must therefore be convinced with solid evidence that will give rise to this recourse. 

Avoiding recourse against the liquidator

The death of a loved one is already a difficult experience, without having to add legal problems with the liquidator named in the will. When making decisions about the estate, it is important to choose someone you trust to take charge of your estate as if it were your own. The role of a liquidator is an important role, so it is not to be taken lightly. 

Here are some qualities to look for in a potential liquidator:

  • Ethics
  • Impartiality
  • Diligence
  • Honesty
  • Organization
  • Financial knowledge
  • Communication
  • Cool head
  • Determination

Finally, don't forget to talk to the person you choose to act as your liquidator  to make sure he or she is willing to take on this role, to discuss the major responsibilities involved, and to let them know where to find a copy of your most recent will, as well as any other information that may be useful. 

Talking about estate planning

The best way to avoid potential problems with the distribution of the estate is to talk about it before you die. By having a conversation with your loved ones about your wishes, you can clarify any doubts right away and leave fewer unanswered questions later. It also allows the legatees and the heirs to know in advance who will be appointed liquidator. 

To learn more about wills