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Estate administration: do I have to advertise for creditors?

Estate administration: do I have to advertise for creditors?

written by Patrick Hartford

If you’re an estate trustee (either an executor or an administrator), you should be advertising for creditors to protect yourself from personal liability.  But with the emergence of advertising for creditors online, this doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

Generally speaking, the deceased’s debts must be paid before the assets of the estate are distributed to the beneficiaries.  One of the jobs of an estate trustee is to identify and pay these debts.  This isn’t always easy, especially when the deceased lived and worked in multiple cities or did business online.

If an estate trustee distributes the assets of an estate to the beneficiaries without checking for outstanding creditors, that trustee can be held personally liable for the amount of an outstanding debt if a creditor later comes forward.

The law protects trustees from liability if they publish a public notice to creditors.  This is also called advertising for creditors.  These notices inform creditors that an estate is being administered.  They specify a deadline by which any creditors must come forward.  After this deadline, the executor can distribute the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries without risking personal liability.

The exact rules vary by province.  In Ontario, Section 53 of the Trustee Act does not prescribe how notices to creditors must be published.  The convention has been to publish an ad in print newspapers three times in the cities where the deceased lived and worked.  This made sense when most business was local and reading the daily newspaper was ubiquitous.

Today, advertising for creditors in a print newspaper makes little sense.  With newspaper readership declining and many print papers shutting down, these ads are failing to reach creditors.  They are also expensive, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  Today, many estate trustees choose to risk liability rather than waste money advertising for creditors in print papers.

Fortunately, new methods of publishing notice to creditors are emerging.  NoticeConect.com is a website where lawyers and estate trustees can advertise for creditors online for $112 (plus tax). The site launched in 2015 and has been very well received by lawyers across Canada.  Posting an ad on the site takes under five minutes.

NoticeConnect works because creditors can find ads on the site in multiple ways.  A creditor searching online for someone who owes them money will find an ad on the site, even if they have never heard of it, because all content on the site is search-engine optimized (SEO) and published on multiple social media platforms.  Additionally, creditors can subscribe to NoticeConnect’s free mailing for regular updates about new ads posted on the site.

If you’re an estate trustee, not advertising for creditors is a risky strategy.  You don’t want to have to pay debts of the deceased out of your own pocket.  If you’re concerned about the high cost and low effectiveness of print ads, NoticeConnect.com is worth checking out.

Patrick Hartford is a lawyer in Ontario and the co-founder of NoticeConnect. The contents of this article are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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