What immigrants to Canada should think about before they die

This article is also available in Russian. Click on Russian flag on the top to read it.

In this article, I am trying to describe the aspects you should think about before you die. Please share this information with your friends and, of course, with the future guardians of your children.


 This article is unique, because you will not find what you read here anywhere on the Internet.

I am a Financial Adviser and Planner, and one of my accreditations is financial planning before and after someone's death. I work with people whose heirs and executors of wills must fulfill the decisions of a departed person. We all will be there at some point, but to leave good memories after us, it is advisable to get acquainted with this document and share it with relatives (most of them will perform the mission of children’s guardians after us) or with close friends.


I have studied the question below as much as possible, but it is important to recall that I am not a lawyer - the information in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. If a lawyer tells you that something in the article is not true according to your specific situation or local laws, listen to him or her, not to me. I am not responsible for your actions and the consequences of them. No person or company sponsored this manual, so neither my company nor I have any financial interest in describing the services from different authorities described below.




While we are alive, we take care of our children and our property. The problem arises when we are not able to do this anymore, either because of death or because of incapacity. In this manual (it is difficult to call it an article), I will describe the financial and inheritance circumstances around departure from life, but it is also advisable to be prepared for incapacity, too. Then it is not just about the children, but also about ourselves.

I will name some facts and ideas about what to do, but there is no ideal solution for everyone. In a particular family, the situation can change over time. Thankfully, most people will never need the manual, but if someone finds themselves in a situation when it is necessary to use it, then the family will at least know what to do next.

 This article is written for those who have a will or those who are going to write one. It is not suitable for those who do not have a will. If you do not have a will, many of the things described here are completely irrelevant to your situation. Also, the article implies that the main reason why you will make a will is not to distribute your property after your death, but how to care for your children, including who will take of them, how to feed them, what to leave them as inheritance, and when they are able to receive inheritance.

 So, you passed away. What happens next? What will happen to your children and your property?

 A will is a document in which you prescribe your desires for what you want to happen to your children after your death and what you want to happen to the property. This cannot be specified by any other document.

A lawyer only must write the will. You can write it by yourself in some provinces, but this would be akin to fixing a dump truck with a toothpick - you can, but it is not wise. You make a will at your place of residence. If you are moving to another province, you need to redo the will! If you have a will made in another country and brought to Canada, go to a lawyer and make a will at your new place of residence. It's true that I'm not a lawyer, and I do not write peoples’ wills, but my business does handle cases when people do not write wills and the heirs (or, more precisely, those who think they are heirs), come to me with questions about what to do next.

There are several exceptions to the one described above. For example, there may be several wills in accordance with property in other provinces or countries.  However, a will describing what should happen to your children should be at your place of residence and written only by a lawyer! This is the most important thing that you will read in this document, which is worth thinking about.

 Now for a moment, imagine that you passed away. The situation will be incredibly stressful for everyone!

There are many questions, which of which I'll cover below:

 - Who will notify relatives about your death?

- How do your friends recognize whom and how to notify? Where can they get their phone number, Skype, and whom to call?

- Who will take care of the funeral?

- Who will act as a guardian of the child/children until the legal guardian is appointed?

- Who will take care of children and cover the expenses?

- If your relatives should come here, how can they get a Canadian visa in the shortest possible time?

- What type of documents do your relatives need to bring with them?

- If your parents already have a visa to Canada (Supervisa), then they need to provide insurance upon arrival. This will be the last thing to think about, but if there is no insurance, they may be not allowed to enter the country. In addition, it is desirable to buy insurance, even if there is no Supervisa, so where to get it from?

-What should your relatives say to customs upon arrival? What should they say to a taxi driver and in what language? Where should they go (because your house is probably not an option)? How should they pay for everything? Whom do they need to talk with upon arrival? What is the address of the person who passed away?

- Where is the child/children of the deceased? How can they get the access to them?

- How can they begin the process of obtaining the guardianship?

- Which friends of the deceased can be trusted?

- How can they call? Where can they get a phone or a cell phone number?

- How can they translate what the other say? How and where can they translate the documents? What should be translated?

- Where should they take the will of the deceased? What should they do next?

- Who is the executor of the will? Moreover, what does he/she do?

- Which accounts need to be paid immediately (for example, funeral services)?

- Which money should be used to pay? How can they access the accounts of the deceased and where are they located?

- If a person died in a car accident, who investigates the case? Where can they get a lawyer? What was the insurance company of the deceased? How can they communicate with them? How do they ensure that the job is performed promptly, and adequately?

- How do you collect life insurance money, and where are these documents stored? Who is the insurance agent? How do you find out what life insurance the deceased had?

- Where can they find a lawyer who will take care of the process following the death? In addition, what exactly is the process?

- Where can the deceased's dependents and family live during this time?

- Is there a person or organization who can answer all of my questions and can take care of all this?

If your relatives have lost someone and do not know whom to contact to assist them in the necessary next steps, they can call or write to me. I will always try to help as soon as possible. Additionally, my Facebook group and its member will be able to find the answers to many of the questions.

-  Who will notify relatives about your death?

Upon learning of your death, would your friends know who else needs to be notified? Where do you store these phone numbers? For example, not everyone would have their parents' numbers in their phone's contacts and regardless,  sometimes  the phone would be locked, or could be seized by the police in the event of an accident.

Consider: Who will track down contact information for your network of friends and relatives? How will they perform this search?

 -         Who will arrange the burial?

This is an interesting question, but there is no singular answer. Inevitably, someone will. However, it is hard to imagine that someone makes solid arrangements prematurely regarding who will bury him in the event of tragedy. 

  -         Who will act as a temporary guardian of the child/children until the official guardian is determined?

If it is not clearly stated in your will who will become the guardian (or even temporary guardian) of your child, then the state and the court will decide.

 -         If relatives from out of the country need to come, how can they acquire a Canadian visa in the shortest possible time?

I have asked an immigration consultant Oksana Torodentko from Calgary to write a short article about the ways of getting a visa. It is advisable to take care of it before the event happened. You will find a link to the article on the last page of this document.

 -         What are the documents relatives need to bring with them?

Passport, their birth certificate, certificate of change of name if changed, marriage certificate, and driver's license. It is desirable for them to have a person back home who can send documents or information. Let them have a General Power of Attorney at their place of residence. It is recommended to buy medical insurance before or upon arrival to Canada. The last thing a person wants to think about is his/her own medical problems, but if they happen, at least they will not need to be involved in financing of medical services in Canada.

We provide insurance in Canada. This is also important if relatives have a Supervisa (one of the conditions of the Supervisa is medical insurance that was purchased at a Canadian insurance company). Website – https://artemfinancial.ca/insurance

 -         What should relatives say to customs upon arrival? What should they say to a taxi driver and in what language? Where should they go (because your house is probably not an option)? How should they pay for everything? Whom do they need to talk to on arrival? What is the address of the person who passed away?

If, God forbid, the worst happened and relatives have to fly here urgently, it is desirable that someone meet relatives to prevent them from taking a taxi and to help them get accommodation with the deceased's acquaintances, or even people whom they barely know. In such a situation, it is better for people not to remain alone, but also not to put themselves through the additional stress of navigating a new city and communicating in a little-known (most-likely) language.

In an extreme situation, people can write or call me if they do not know anyone and I will post an ad in my Facebook group. Together we will try to find someone who can help, or at least take them from the airport and place them in a hotel or someone's home temporarily.

Social networks exist not only to scroll through at night, but also to help each other.

-         Where is the child / children of the deceased? How can they get access to meet them?

If there is no relative or closest friend who will perform the duties of a temporary guardian, then social services will be engaged in this. Most likely, this process will go through the police. I could not find anyone who could answer the question in every institution I have asked - no one knows the answer. I think the police will be the first instance until they will find someone to take care of a child.

If someone must or wants to become a temporary guardian, then this case should be considered in court. The task will be much simpler if the person is mentioned in the will as a temporary guardian or a permanent guardian. 

 -         Which of the deceased's friends can be most trusted?

Good question, but this is one you can only answer for yourself. One way to determine who was the most loyal companion of a departed person is to check the police records to see if the departed person had a home alarm system. People who have an alarm system make a list of their closest friends--most likely people who can be trusted--for police to contact in case of any danger or problem.

Unfortunately, people who face the loss of a loved one, especially in as stressful a situation as I describe, can make many mistakes, such as signing documents that shouldn't be signed, writing checks to people who shouldn't receive them, or even losing documents. Sometimes, unscrupulous "friends" can be deceiving. That is why it is a good idea to think about how to tell your relatives the names of your friends that can be trusted.

 -         How can they call? Where can they get a phone or a cell phone number?

The question may seem trivial to those who live here, but for  a person entering  the country for the first time, knowing where to find a cell phone may not be so obvious. Most companies have a mandatory requirement to provide a credit card for subsequent payment, even to purchase a pre-paid cell phone.

There is a solution: BMO Bank offers pre-paid personal credit cards that can be replenished as needed; there is no credit history required.

The card looks exactly like other  company's credit cards, and no one will know that the card is any different. https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/credit-cards/prepaid-credit-cards/

 These cards can be obtained from any branch of the bank and can be used to buy a pre-paid cell phone, which includes a plan that is paid for in advance. Because I suspect there will be many phone conversations, it is better to choose a more expensive cellular provider, such as Bell or Telus, that provides service in all areas of the city rather than one that does not offer citywide coverage.

 -         How can they translate what locals say? How and where can they translate documents? What should be translated?

It is desirable to find an interpreter immediately. Many cities have immigration centers where one can go for help.

 -         Where should they get the deceased's will from? What is the next step?
Who is the executor of the will? Moreover, what does he/she do?

This is one of the most important sections of this document, and for some is the main reason for reading this document.

One of the things that all families who have small children think about is who can be trusted with money in case of the parents' death.

This is a complex question, because children under the age of 18 cannot receive money (and at the age of 18, few would entrust a large amount to children). Giving money to neighbors, friends, or acquaintances in order for them to give the money to children at age 18 is also not the best option. Neighbors can move, go bankrupt, be condemned, or spend, invest, and lose the money, all of which would have a deplorable financial result for your children. Even neighbors with the best intentions whom you are sure would give the money to your children run this risk of dying before your children turn 18. In addition, if you gave them money (that is, they were appointed as heirs in a will or life insurance policy), this money will be posthumously transferred to their heirs. You can give them money in trust, but they will have to report to the children when they turn 18 every penny spent. In short, there are many nuances when leaving money to friends.

If parents, siblings, or other relatives are appointed as heirs, they can receive the inheritance by coming to Canada. It should be taken into account that the inheritance can be considered taxable income for some relatives at their country of residence. In addition, if they are given a large sum of money, would they be able to manage it? There are many people who posthumously become millionaires because of life insurance. Can parents, brothers, and sisters of the deceased competently invest this money (including paying mortgages and other debts of the deceased)? There is no single answer because each family will have its own situation, but giving a lot of money, for example, to an 80-year-old mother would not solve the problem of how to transfer inheritance money to children, especially if the mother does not live in Canada.

 Most people would like to transfer a larger share of the inheritance to children. One option is to transfer some part of the inheritance to the appointed guardian so that he or she would  be able to access the money  to help  support the children. However, how can you pass it down so that the money is not wasted by other people or even by the children themselves? This problem is solved by using a trust.

 According to Wikipedia the definition of a trust/trust company is the following

 A trust company is a corporation, especially a commercial bank, organized to perform the fiduciary of trusts and agencies. It is normally owned by one of three types of structures: an independent partnership, a bank, or a law firm, each of which specializes in being a trustee of various kinds of trusts and in managing estates. Trust companies are not required to exercise all of the powers that they are granted. Further, the fact that a trust company in one jurisdiction does not perform all of the trust company duties in another jurisdiction is irrelevant and does not have any bearing on whether either company is truly a "trust company". Therefore, it is safe to say that the term "trust company" must not be narrowly construed.

The "trust" name refers to the ability of the institution's trust department to act as a trustee – someone who administers financial assets on behalf of another. The assets are typically held in the form of a trust, a legal instrument that spells out who the beneficiaries are and what the money can be spent for.

A trustee will manage investments, keep records, manage assets, prepare court accounting, pay bills (depending on the nature of the trust) medical expenses, charitable gifts, inheritances or other distributions of income and principal.

 Here is an example to illustrate how it works: 

Let's say you give your son a car for an unlimited time. He drives it, he fills the gas tank, he gives friends rides for his friends, and he pays parking tickets. However, he has no right to sell it. The car is still yours. You are the owner. At the same time, if someone sues your son, or he divorces his wife, then the car cannot be taken away because he does not own it.

This is how you can solve the problem of transferring inheritance money on the terms that you established during life. There are two types of trusts. One exists when a person is alive (inter vivos), and the other arises posthumously (testamentary). We will only talk about the second trust - the very thing that we need. This trust is stated in the will as one part of the testament. The description of the trust describes who will be the beneficiary, the person who is responsible for the money and acts of the trust. The will also appoints who will be the executor or executrix of the will.

All these three functions can be performed by one person (there are situations when it makes sense), but most likely there will be three different people. The executor of the will is engaged in fulfilling your wishes from the will, filling in the income tax return, and distributing the property as appointed in the will. Thus, his/her function is relatively short, potentially a year or two if performed in a timely manner. However, a trustee can take more than a decade to dispose of the money.

You can assign the role of trustee to a person who understands financial matters, but our health  is fragile, and the person may find himself/herself unable to perform the function of trustee for long after you pass away. Assigning a spare trustee is important even if in the moment it does not make sense. The role of trustee is long-term, and the person who today agreed to perform this function may be unsuitable in 10-20 years or even will have no clue who were you.

There is another option that many immigrant families would consider ideal for finding someone they can trust to handle the inheritance money for children without fear that the money will be wasted, stolen, or lost.

The role of executor of the will AND/OR of the trustee can be a certain organization, called a corporate trustee. There are a few such organizations that carry out a mission of trustee. They all need to be registered with the government, and the registered list can be viewed here.


  At the time of writing the article, there are 44 trust companies. Most of them are engaged with corporations, multi-millionaires, and the ultra-wealthy, rather than ordinary people. However, there are a few that would be able to help your family in such a situation.

 Here is the list of Trust and Estate organizations that I know. Of course, there are more than only four of them, but these are the four I personally have spoken to while writing this article.

BMO Trust and Estate

 RBC Trust and Estate

 Fiduciary Trust

 Concentra Trust

 Trusts that are part of conglomerates (RBC, BMO) are focused on wealthy people, and if you do not have a certain income level while you are alive, they less likely to be interested in communicating with you. If they receive a check after your death and are asked to do the will, they may agree to become a trustee and/or executor, but in advance no one can guarantee to help you.

 Could you appoint them in a will without them agreeing to help? It is possible, but there are several problems: lawyers do not like to do this because if these offices find out, they will immediately stop recommending this lawyer to clients. These organizations are not very interested in becoming executors of the wills before they have checked the will, and they will not do it unless the person is a millionaire (not posthumously, but at the time of checking the will).

The second problem that arises with these companies is quite serious. If a person has died and someone has been appointed to be the executor of the will, then this person can transfer this function to someone else or one of these Trust and Estate organizations, BUT IT SHOULD BE DONE BEFORE HE HAS STARTED TO PERFORM HIS DUTIES. I intentionally wrote this in large print. It is very important. If you have appointed your grandmother to be the executor of the will, then she can delegate authority, for example, to the Trust and Estate organization, but if the grandmother has already started executing the mission of executrix (for example, filled out with the accountant's income tax return), then most likely no Trust and Estate company can assume these responsibilities. Thus, if you want to appoint such a company to be the executor of a will, then it must be the top choice in the list of executors of the will. As I have already written, these organizations do not want to be appointed without a first check of the will. What is the solution then, so that they become executors of the will? Before we answer this question, let us decide what will happen if no one wants to be an executor. This cannot happen and at the end, someone will have to do it regardless. If everyone refuses, then it is the state itself, or rather the province, or even more precisely the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, that will assume the role of executor. They will perform what you have written in the will, but because there are many wills like yours that they must execute, they will not be as efficient.  Nevertheless, this option is much better than not having a will at all, because then the Public Guardian and Trustee will be in charge of all aspects of the dispersal of your property, but acting in accordance to their own rules rather than your wishes.

The final two Trust and Estate companies on my list are not related to conglomerates and are more open to communicating with clients. However, only Concentra will inscribe itself as a trustee and/or as an executor in a will without charging money to prepare everything in advance. I highly recommend you consider this company for one or two duties (corporate executor or/and trustee).

If you decide to use their services, then you will need to find a lawyer who specializes in inheritance affairs and who knows how to properly draft a will by writing and appointing this company in a will. The will must be checked by this company.  You can directly call Concentra and find out which lawyer is cooperating with them. If you are in Calgary, then you can contact me directly for advice on lawyers.

In addition, Concentra can store original wills if you assigned them as a corporate executor. It is not necessary, but it is a good option if you do not know where to store it.

I note that their service fees may seem high (4-5% of the amount of the inheritance), but this is not much if you look at the job, the responsibility they bear, and the meaning of their work. If you have relatives here, then, of course, it would be better for them to deal with inheritance issues. However, if this is not possible, then using corporate trustee is a good alternative. I will not list all the advantages of working with them, but they are the only option that I could find for someone who does not have anyone in which they can place their trust regarding their money in the event of their death. Pay special attention to this point.

  Another important point. If you designate someone who is NOT a resident of Canada (i.e. a person who does not live here permanently) as a trustee, then you create a trust that will be non-resident, and taxes in this case will be much higher. Filling out tax returns will also be much more expensive. If the worst has happened, and the heirs or executor brought money to the Fiduciary Trust or Concentra Trust (or other Trust and Estate companies, but there are the ones I would recommend), then they most likely will be able to become a corporate trustee and distribute the money, as appointed in the will. If there is no will, then I am afraid they will not want to work with you, as there are no conditions that need to be met.

 -         How should they begin the process of custody?

First of all, you need to contact a lawyer who will help you with this process. Do not try to do it yourself; in this matter, only a competent lawyer will understand the process.

 -         What bills need to be paid urgently?

As I wrote above, this should only be done by the executor of the will (executor) and if he/she assumed these obligations and started executing them, then it would be very difficult to transfer it to a corporate trustee. 

However, here is a small list of things that the executor does. 

Funeral expenses - this is usually the first thing to pay, if it has not already been paid. For the most part, the bank in which the deceased's money is deposited, issues a bank draft in the name of the funeral home if a death certificate is presented along with an invoice from the funeral home. It is not necessary to be the executor of a will or generally to have a will in this case, since the check is issued not to the bearer of the death certificate, but to the funeral home. Problems usually do not arise from the bank, unless, of course, the price is absolutely sky-high. In no circumstance can you distribute assets (money, property) until:

1. Debts are paid

2. Taxes are paid

3. The will passes probate (in other words, the assurance of the will, that it is legal and final). It is important to find not only a competent lawyer who will deal with the issue of custody and probate in court, but also a competent accountant who would know what tax returns must be filled out. Several tax declarations can be submitted posthumously to reduce taxes! Under no circumstances should the executor fill them in himself/herself!!!

In no case can you give away property or spend money before you receive a tax clearance certificate from the tax authority (CRA). If the deceased person owed unpaid taxes, and money or property was already distributed among the heirs or spent without paying the taxes, then the executor of the will be liable and the CRA can impose fines and interest.

If the deceased had a will (and if not, then go back to the very beginning of this article!), and property or money must be transferred through the will, the probate process is inevitable. This process goes through the court. The court is also unavoidable if a will has appointed who will be the guardian of the child or children. If the property is the only issue, the process of probate can still last very, very long. It rarely ends in only a few months, I know cases when the process lasted for several years. Appointing custody for the child will most likely not last that long, if the guardian has all the papers, including IDs confirming the identity, the original will of the deceased, and other documents that the court may require.

If you need more detailed instructions on what to do, visit any branch of the RBC bank to pick up an Executor Kit (i.e. what duties the executor must perform). The document can also be downloaded from the links at the end of this article.

 -         Where should they get the money to pay? How can they access the accounts of the deceased, and where are the accounts located?

If the deceased had life insurance, then it is necessary to provide a death certificate to the insurance company. It is desirable that the executor handles this because he knows the heir for insurance. The heir can be appointed either in the life insurance itself or if the heir was changed after the initial contract was signed, it is necessary to find out from the insurance company itself.

Insurance companies do not deal with the allocation of money and the search for heirs. This must be done by the will  executor or estate administrator, i.e. the one whom the court will appoint to perform such functions if there is no will.

It is necessary to pay attention to the insurances the deceased had.

The list may be longer than described below, but here are the main options that need to be checked:

 - life insurance, attached to a credit card (balance protector)

 This type of insurance pays a credit card balance if there is a debt in the month after the death

- life insurance at work (group life insurance)

- life insurance for the spouse of the second spouse on working insurance. Here is an example. If a person (say, a husband) has group life insurance at work, then there is also a small life insurance for the spouse (for example, his wife). Usually the amounts are relatively small, $5000 to $10000. In our example, it does not matter the husband died or not; if the wife died, the heirs receive $5000 to $10000 life insurance benefit. If both die, the heirs receive life insurance for both spouses.

- life insurance for a mortgage. If the deceased had mortgage life insurance, then it will pay the balance on the mortgage. To receive this insurance, you need to apply to the bank where there was a mortgage, and present a death certificate.

- loan insurance - as above, if there was a loan, then the insurance would cover the balance on the loan.

- individual life insurance, which the person has enrolled in himself with the insurance agent or directly with the insurance company.

- if a person died in a car accident, then there may also be an insurance payment.

- AD & D - accidental death and dismemberment. If a person died as a result of an accident, and a person had this additional insurance option (often it comes with insurance at work), then life insurance coverage doubles from the original contract (within a certain limit).

- If a person had other insurance -- for example, disability insurance -- then in case of death of a person, this insurance can also be paid a certain amount. This is indicated in the insurance contract.

- The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) pays a small amount in the event of a person's death, up to a maximum of $2,500, but the amount depends on the past deductions of a person in the CPP.

Reminder: The people or companies that will fulfill the conditions of the will will not work for free.

Everyone understands the stressful situation of people who have just lost a loved one and many will help; at the same time, if you need someone to perform a certain job for a long period of time, do not expect professionals to work for free. You should have life insurance for these cases. If you do not have it, then this is your problem, not the professionals that your relatives or friends will seek. If you do not have insurance, then you should have enough money to ensure payment of taxes, debts, consideration of the case in court regarding the attestation of the will, the transfer of children to the guardian and the further life of the family. Again, if you do not have money or life insurance, then someone will need to pay it all.

If not, property will be sold (and it will not happen immediately), or relatives will need to have access to your money, or be prepared to use their own money.

Do not expect that someone on Facebook will donate exorbitant amounts of the necessary funds for something that you should have thought about during your lifetime. Temporary life insurance does not cost an astronomical amount, and for most people it can be done (exceptions cannot be made for human health: savings and financial preparation is essential for such unexpected circumstances).

On our Youtube channel, you can get acquainted with various types of life insurance in Canada and understand the differences between them before you buy anything.

Life insurance is one of the resources that can be accessed relatively quickly for heirs -- but importantly, it is not always the case that insurance companies pays the heirs quickly (and sometimes they do not pay at all). It depends on many factors, such as the cause of death, which should be studied by the insurance or police, the delay in the conclusion of the doctor regarding the result of death, if the insurance was concluded relatively recently, and many other reasons. So life insurance alone cannot be counted on. One of the reasons may be that the heirs simply do not know that the person had life insurance at all, and it a claim must be made to the insurance company in order for any money to be received. Cases when life insurance is not paid are the following: a person died participating in hostilities, committed a crime, committed suicide within the first 2 years after the contract was signed, provided incorrect information in the application, was missing or if the person is missing resulting in a lack of death certificate to provide for the insurance company. Of course, the main reason for the refusal is deception or concealment of some information that becomes available after death, because the insurance company wants to know everything and will look for reasons to avoid payment.

It is advisable to have a list of accounts where you have your possessions, including in which banks your money and investments are.

Unfortunately, no one can have access to the personal account of the deceased before the court ruling (that is, probate) (there are very rare exceptions if the amount of money in the account is small). Paying funeral services is an exception to this rule. Accordingly, the executor of the will must have some financial resources to live, to deal with administrative issues, pay debts, taxes, communicate with a lawyer, a court and an accountant.


If I missed something, or if you found errors in this article, I'd be happy to hear from you, at  contact@artemfinancial.ca

Here are some documents that may be useful to you:

Executor kit from RBC and from ERAssure (a company that provides insurance for executors if they suddenly made problems).



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