Here is a good explanation by la Chambre des Notaires:
« Old resentments often surface during the settlement of a succession, even in the most loving families. Why? Because the death of a loved one is in itself very emotionally destabilizing, and settling the succession often raises difficulties that the deceased could not have anticipated. Another reason is that the liquidator of the succession, i.e., the person appointed to settle the succession, does not always understand the role and the responsibilities toward the other family members.
Guiding the liquidator
Liquidating a succession is a complex exercise. In fact, the law imposes rules and specific procedures on the liquidator in the fulfilment of his or her obligations: compiling an inventory of the deceased’s property; paying the deceased person’s debts; distributing property, etc.
Avoiding the personal liability of the liquidator
The requirements of settling a succession include preparing an inventory of the deceased’s property and carrying out several tax-related procedures (filing tax returns for the deceased, making fiscal choices with consequences that may be beneficial to the heirs, obtaining certificates authorizing release of property, etc.). These steps are important and the liquidator must undertake them without undue delay or the heirs could be harmed and the liquidator could be personally liable.
Avoiding the personal liability of the heirs for the succession’s debts
“Being personally liable” for the debts of the succession means that the heir must “pay out of pocket” for the debts of the deceased. Obviously this is not a desirable situation. This can occur when an heir accepts a succession without knowing whether it has more liabilities (debts) than assets (property). If this is the case, then we say that the estate has a “deficit,” as the property is worth less than the amount of debt. The deceased’s creditors have the right to claim payment from the heir, even if the property received from the succession is insufficient to pay the debt in full. When an estate has a deficit, it is best to renounce it. It is important to understand that acceptance of a succession does not need to be explicit. It can be tacit, resulting, for example, from simply transferring the balance from the deceased’s bank account to the heir’s account or contacting the Société d’assurance automobile du Québec to register the deceased’s vehicle in the heir’s name.
When dealing with a succession, it is in the heir’s best interest to be patient and ensure that all the formalities required by law have been fulfilled. In case of doubt, consult your notary. A notary’s advice could save you a lot of trouble.
If you are responsible for settling a succession, remember that your notary can be a great help. A notary’s legal expertise qualifies him or her to advise you with regard to all necessary decisions. Do not leave anything to chance. For peace of mind, consult your notary. »
Ref : http://www.cnq.org/en/successions-wills/108-why-consult-a-notary-to-settle-a-succession-.html