November 07, 2019

Legislation Introduced To Protect Public From Heir Locators

The Government of Saskatchewan has introduced legislation that will put limits on fees that can be charged by heir locators, and clarify a number of provisions regarding estates.

The Public Guardian and Trustee Amendment Act, 2019 will address predatory behaviour on the part of heir locators.  In some situations, heir locators have taken in excess of 50 per cent of an inheritance after entering into an agreement with a potential heir.

The Act also makes amendments clarifying the Public Guardian and Trustee’s role as property guardian for minors or adults without capacity, and as administrator for deceased individuals as described in the Act.

“This legislation will ensure that companies acting as heir locators are held to a specific standard of conduct when providing their services in Saskatchewan,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan said.  “We have seen provisions around this put in place in other provinces, and believe this is the best way to properly regulate this industry in the province.”

The maximum fee heir locators can charge will be 10 per cent of a client’s interest in an estate.

The Administration of Estates Amendment Act, 2019 will include amendments that provide for a more straightforward process for the removal of executors and administrators of an estate in situations involving inappropriate conduct.  The Act also allows an executor or an administrator of an estate to provide public notice of an individual’s death to creditors through electronic means.

Under the previous legislation, executors and administrators were required to use newspapers to publish notice to creditors.  The Act also further clarifies the authority of the Public Guardian and Trustee to act as executor or administrator of the estates of deceased individuals as described in the Act.

Additionally, the amendments will require that the Public Guardian and Trustee be given notice of instances where a minor or adult who lacks capacity may have an interest in the estate of a deceased individual, to ensure that person’s interest is protected.  The amendments will clarify that a fee is payable for every application made to the court under The Administration of Estates Act, with the amounts being set out in the regulations.  The regulations will be finalized at a later date.

The fees are intended to recover the costs of the work done by registrars in the processing of applications under the Act.  The Public Guardian and Trustee acts as property guardian for children under 18 and persons not capable of managing their own affairs in situations where no other party can fulfill this role.  It also administers the estates of deceased persons, and missing persons under The Missing Persons and Presumption of Death Act, when no one else is available to do so.