On March 20th, 2014, the Estate Administration Act (the EAA) was passed by the Alberta Legislature. The EAA will replace the Administration of Estates Act, the Devolution of Real Property Act, and several rules that are currently contained in the Surrogate Rules of Court.
One important change that the EAA will bring about is that individuals who administer estates without a grant will now be governed by the EAA. Currently, the Administration of Estates Act only applies to personal representatives who obtained a grant of probate or grant of administration. By contrast, the EAA expressly imposes fiduciary duties on all personal representatives, whether a grant is obtained or not, and states that a personal representative must perform his or her role honestly and in good faith, in accordance with the testator’s intentions and with the will, if a valid will exists, and with the care, diligence and skill that a personal of ordinary prudence would exercise in comparable circumstance where a fiduciary relationships exists. Further, the EAA states that a personal representative must distribute the estate as soon as practicable. Previously, the role and duties of a personal representative were only found in the common law.
The EAA seeks to clarify the role of a personal representative and streamline the estate administration process. Other new changes include the following:
- The authority of a personal representative has been codified from the common law. The EAA contains a single provision stating that a personal representative may “do anything in relation to the property [of the estate] that the deceased person could do if he or she were alive and of full legal capacity”.
- A new, higher standard of care is created by the EAA for professional personal representatives, such as trust companies or lawyers.
- A personal representative’s core tasks (such as identifying estate assets and liabilities) are now expressly listed in the EAA, and there are provisions that allow beneficiaries to apply to the Court for relief in the event that a personal representative fails or refuses to perform a duty or core task.