An executor or administrator is required to identify and locate all beneficiaries of an estate. They should search for information about the relatives of the deceased to determine the beneficiaries.
Determination of who, in succession, would be a beneficiary of a deceased estate is determined by legislation, specifically The Intestate Succession Act, 1996 where the death is prior to October 1, 2019, The Intestate Succession Act, 2019, where the death is on or after October 1, 2019, The Wills Act where there is a will, and The Family Property Act.
Beneficiaries are verified by obtaining executed heirship affidavits. Additional documentation to support the determination of beneficiaries may be required and may include birth, death, and marriage certificates, written confirmation of adoption and DNA testing.
Legislation requires that, in certain circumstances, the estate cannot be distributed for six months after Letters Probate or Letters of Administration are obtained. These circumstances include:
- dependants of the deceased may have a claim pursuant to The Dependants' Relief Act, 1996 because the will did not make adequate arrangements for their support. Dependants include a legal, common law or same-sex spouse, children under the age of 18 years; or children over the age of 18 years who by reason of physical or mental disability are not able to support themselves; and
- a legal, common law or same-sex spouse who was not named as the sole beneficiary of the estate may apply for a division of the family property after the death of the other spouse.
It is necessary to confirm and locate all of the beneficiaries in an estate before estate assets can be distributed. In some estates, it is necessary to hire an heir locator to assist in the location of the beneficiaries even though it takes considerable time. Once the heir locator has indicated that he or she cannot go further, then it is necessary for the executor or administrator to make a court application for directions as to how to pay out the funds.
Note:The Intestate Succession Act, 1996 was repealed and replaced with The Intestate Succession Act, 2019. These changes only apply for deaths that occur on or after October 1, 2019. For deaths that occur prior to October 1, 2019, the rules under the Intestate Succession Act, 1996 apply. Some key amendments to the Act include:
- Clarification when a spousal relationship has terminated and the spouse is no longer entitled to any portion of the estate. Specifically, the spouse does not receive any share in the estate if the couple had been living separate and apart for two years.
- Revision of the rules regarding priority of distribution where there is a spouse.
- The preferential share for the spouse has been increased from $100, 000 to $200,000 and is located in The Intestate Succession Regulations.
- The spouse will inherit the entire estate if all children of the intestate are also children of the spouse.
- Where the intestate died leaving one or more children of a different relationship, then the surviving spouse will first receive his or her preferential share and then
- where there is one child of the intestate the remainder of the estate will be split between the surviving spouse and the intestate's child; and
- where the intestate had more than one child, the surviving spouse will receive 1/3 of the estate and the intestate's children will share equally in the remaining 2/3 of the estate.
- All of an intestate's land located in Saskatchewan are governed by laws of Saskatchewan regardless of where the intestate resided.
- Revision of the rules of the distribution of an intestate's property to beneficiaries where there is no will.